PHL steps up presence in West Philippine Sea: Palace

The Philippines has stepped up its presence in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) amid China’s incursions into the country’s exclusive economic zone, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

“The presence of Philippine maritime security and law enforcement forces have been stepped up in the municipality of Kalayaan to protect Filipino fishermen and the marine resources,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press statement.

Roque issued the statement the same day as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) once again filed two diplomatic notes against China after 200 Chinese vessels were spotted in the Julian Felipe Reef on April 11.

The first diplomatic protest counts as the daily protest as long as there are Chinese ships in and around Julian Felipe Reef and the second is on the dispersal of Chinese vessels to other parts of Philippine maritime zones.

Apart from the filing of diplomatic protests, the DFA also summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian over the current situation in Julian Felipe Reef, Roque said.

The Philippines first lodged a note verbale over the incident in Julian Felipe Reef on March 21 after around 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 (AFP).

Roque likewise reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte, during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September last year, stressed the importance of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) ruling on the Philippines’ petition against China’s sweeping claims over the contested South China Sea.

He added that the National Task Force on West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) is “consistent” in invoking Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights over WPS.

On July 12, 2016, the PCA in the Hague, Netherlands ruled In favor of the Philippines after it invalidated China’s claim to nearly the entire SCS. PNA.GOV.PH