DFA: Presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island ‘clear violation of PH sovereignty’
MANILA, Philippines — The presence of Chinese vessels surrounding Pag-asa Island is “a clear violation of Philippine sovereignty,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Thursday.
The DFA explained that the Pag-asa Island is part of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) which it described as an “integral part of the Philippines over which it has sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.”
“Accordingly, the presence of Chinese vessels near and around Pag-asa and other maritime features in the KIG is illegal,” the DFA said in a statement.
“Such actions are a clear violation of Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, as defined under international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” it added.
The DFA further said that “it has been observed that Chinese vessels have been present in large numbers and for sustained and recurring periods — what is commonly referred to as ‘swarming’ tactics — raising questions about their intent as well as concerns over their role in support of coercive objectives.”
“Such actions when not repudiated by the Chinese government are deemed to have been adopted by it,” the DFA added.
The department, nevertheless, assured that the Philippine government is taking the “appropriate action” to address the issue.
“The presence of Chinese vessels within the KIG, whether military, fishing or other vessels, will thus continue to be the subject of appropriate action by the Philippines,” it said.
The DFA also noted that the Philippines has been consistent in manifesting its position on the Pag-asa Islands and the KIG.
“For the record, the Philippines has consistently manifested its position on the Pag-asa Islands and the KIG, and its objections or concerns over illegal, tension-raising or coercive activities, through diplomatic actions, including notes verbales and in meetings with the Chinese side, including the Philippines-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM),” it said.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he has “fired off a salvo of diplomatic notes” before he embarked on a four-day official visit to China in March.
BEFORE going to successful China visit I fired off salvo of diplomatic notes so I would not be accused of insincerity if, as suggested, I fired them off AFTER the visited wch is sioki. Instructed shot over massing of moving vessels because circling establishes nothing. https://t.co/2AQYhpPEcu
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) April 2, 2019
Meanwhile, the DFA called on concerned parties “to desist from any action and activity that contravenes the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), as these generate tension, mistrust, and uncertainty, and threatens regional peace and stability.”
It also urged the “full and effective implementation” of the DOC while negotiations for a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea are ongoing.
“We cannot emphasize enough the imperative to build and promote mutual trust and confidence, to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities; and to avoid actions that may further complicate the situation and undermine peace, security, and stability in the region,” the DFA said.
The Philippines and China are locked in a longstanding maritime dispute over the South China Sea.
In January 2013, the Philippines filed a case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, the Netherlands challenging China’s “nine-dash line” that covers almost the entire South China Sea.
The arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016, which China refused to recognize.
President Rodrigo Duterte has chosen to set aside the ruling and engaged China in bilateral talks. /ee
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