The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will file anew another diplomatic protest against China amid reports that some 240 Chinese vessels were sighted in the Julian Felipe Reef on April 11, indicating its continued presence in the area despite repeated demands from the Philippines to withdraw its ships.
Over Twitter, DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. announced Wednesday the order to fire another diplomatic note.
Asked for details, the DFA said the agency is verifying reports and checking with facts on the ground to ensure the protest is worded accordingly.
The latest development came two days after the government summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian over the swarming of Chinese ships, believed to be militias, in the area that is within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
The DFA first lodged a note verbale over the amassing in Julian Felipe Reef on March 21 after some 200 Chinese vessels were spotted moored in line formation in the area. The number reportedly decreased to 44 ships based on a March 30 patrol by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The tiff intensified as the vessels continued to linger in the area, prompting the DFA to call out on April 5 the Chinese Embassy’s “blatant falsehoods” such as claims of adverse weather conditions when there were none. It then vowed to blast diplomatic protests “for every day of delay” to pull out their ships.
In a forum titled “Maintaining a Rules-Based Maritime Order”, Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) president Dindo Manhit said these Chinese incursions “has been strongly condemned not only by the Philippine government, but by the full spectrum of Philippine society”.
“The persistent and deliberate swarming maneuverings of their maritime militia vessels in Philippine waters reveals China’s expansionist ambitions and renders false their pronouncements to safeguard peace and stability in the region. They continue to instigate deceptive rhetoric and acts that undermine the precepts of peaceful resolution and stability in the region,” he said.
Liz Derr, founder and CEO of Simularity, said the country’s maritime law enforcement authorities must frequent patrols to further protect the features and fishing grounds in the Philippine EEZ.
“Then, I recommend ‘occupying’, even in a token way, the unoccupied features in the Philippine EEZ. Let’s not let them take any more,” she said during the forum.
Simularity is a US-based geospatial software firm that uses an artificial intelligence-powered system to detect any relevant anomalies in the South China Sea, such as new human activity, potentially illegal fishing, incursions into the EEZs of the countries in the area, fortification and construction, dredging, and reclamation.
China’s Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, reiterates its position on the area as its bats for “friendly consultations” to “jointly uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
“We have noticed that President Duterte recently said that the Philippines will continue to resolve the issue peacefully through diplomatic channel. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi reached consensus with Foreign Secretary Locsin on the proper settlement of the relevant dispute during the latter’s visit to China recently,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a press briefing on April 13.
“We hope certain Philippine officials can stop hyping up the issue and avoid producing a negative impact on bilateral relations and peace and stability in the South China Sea,” he added. PNA.GOV.PH