PH demands China to pull ships, maritime assets out of WPS
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has demanded that China immediately withdraw its fishing vessels and maritime assets from the West Philippine Sea after Manila protested the presence of over 200 Chinese ships at the Julian Felipe Reef.
In a statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Philippine government said China should “promptly withdraw its fishing vessels and maritime assets in the vicinity and adjacent waters of relevant features in the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the West Philippine Sea, and to direct its fishing vessels to desist from environmentally destructive activities.”
“The Philippines has been assiduously protesting the illegal and lingering (swarming) presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime assets in the said areas,” it added.
On Sunday, Mar. 21, Manila filed a diplomatic protest over the vessels’ presence, believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel.
Following the filing of the protest, the Chinese Embassy in Manila denied the alleged activity of Beijing’s maritime militia at the said reef, which it claimed is part of Nansha Qundao, one of two South China Sea political districts established by the Chinese government in 2020, and which the Philippines had previously protested.
But the DFA asserted that the reef lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The ships have remained moored at the reef even after Manila protested their existence in the area, which is located just around 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.
“We reiterate that the continued deployment, lingering presence and activities of Chinese vessels in Philippine maritime zones blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction,” the DFA said.
“China’s continuing infringements and tolerance thereof, notwithstanding the persistent and resolute protests of the government of the Republic of the Philippines, are contrary to China’s commitments under international law and the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” it added.
Further, the Philippine government, through the DFA, called on China to “faithfully honor” its obligations as a State Party to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and to “respect and abide by the final and binding” 2016 arbitral award on the South China Sea.
In July 2016, the Philippines won a landmark victory over China at the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, invalidating China’s nine-dash line claim, a decision that Beijing refuses to accept.
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