MANILA, Philippines – Chinese ships regularly come and go within Philippine territorial waters, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.
DFA spokesman, Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, told reporters in a media briefing that “Chinese ships are back in Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag Shoal), they go back and forth in that area.”
Hernandez revealed this when asked to comment about a statement by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin last Friday that “as far as the last air patrol we conducted, they (Chinese ships) were no longer in Panatag Shoal. There was inclement weather there.”
The last patrol was on June 27, Gazmin had said.
Bajo de Masinloc has been a part of a territorial dispute between China and the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.
“Our position remains that Bajo de Masinloc is an integral part of Philippine territory, and China should respect our maritime entitlements in that area,” Hernandez said.
“[China has] been intruding in that area for some time now and those reports of Chinese ships leaving and coming back have been [a part of regular] reports,” he said.
Chinese ships also come and go in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal), which is part of the Spratly’s Group of Islands near Palawan.
“No reports of goings on in Ayungin Shoal, [Chinese ships] come and go also in that area,” Hernandez said.
The Philippines has filed diplomatic protests for the intrusion of China into Philippine waters before the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas (Unclos) and before the Chinese embassy in the country.
“What we have been doing is asking China to respect our maritime entitlements, we have been doing some consultations with them [and] we have undertaken our legal initiatives,” Hernandez said.