PH warns China of diplomatic protests for ‘every day of delay’ to pull out ships from WPS
MANILA, Philippines — China risks facing a diplomatic protest from the Philippines for every day that it fails to withdraw its fishing vessels and maritime assets from the West Philippines Sea, saying the ships’ “lingering presence and activities” in the area “blatantly infringe” upon Philippine sovereignty.
In a strongly worded statement Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) renewed its demand for China to pull out its vessels from the Philippines’ maritime territory.
The same demand was earlier issued by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who said he is “no fool” to believe China’s explanation that the vessels are just taking shelter in the area due to bad weather.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs, therefore, reiterates the demand of the Secretary of National Defense that China immediately withdraws its fishing vessels and maritime assets in the area and vicinity of Julian Felipe Reef and in the Philippines’ maritime zones. For every day of delay, the Republic of the Philippines will lodge a diplomatic protest,” the DFA said.
“The continued deployment, lingering presence and activities of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea and China’s tolerance thereof blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction,” it added.
The DFA also took to task the Chinese Embassy in Manila for supposedly attempting to “impugn” Lorenzana by calling the defense secretary’s statement on the presence of the Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea “unprofessional.”
“Chinese Embassy officials are reminded that they are guests of the Philippine Government, and as guests must at all times observe protocol and accord respect to Philippine Government officials,” the DFA said.
Further, the DFA said the embassy’s statement contained “blatant falsehoods,” including claims of “adverse weather conditions when there were none and the supposed non-existence of maritime militia vessels in the area.”
“The statement also attempted to promote the clearly false narrative of China’s expansive and illegitimate claims in the West Philippine Sea,” the agency added.
The Chinese embassy has insisted that the Julian Felipe Reef is part of Nansha Qundao, one of two political districts in the South China Sea established by the Chinese government in 2020.
But the DFA rejected China’s assertion that the reef is part of its “traditional fishing grounds,” maintaining that the area is within the Kalayaan Island Group and lies in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
“Tradition yields to the law whether or not it is regarded as traditional fishing. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)—to which both the Republic of the Philippines and China are parties—and the final and binding 12 July 2016 Award in the South China Sea Arbitration are clearly the only norms applicable to this situation,” the DFA pointed out.
It said the ruling “conclusively settled the issue of historic rights and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.”
In July 2016, the Hague-based court ruled in favor of the Philippines invalidating China’s expansive claim over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea. Beijing has repeatedly refused to recognize the ruling.
“The Tribunal ruled that claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction that exceed the geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements under UNCLOS, are without lawful effect. It further ruled that UNCLOS ‘superseded any historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, in excess of the limits imposed therein’,” the DFA went on.
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