Roque: Julian Felipe Reef was never in PH possession
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang questioned why the issue about Chinese ships at Julian Felipe Reef was “bloated” when the area had “never” been in the Philippine possession and falls outside the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the country.
The statement contradicted the assertions issued by the Defense and Foreign Affairs departments that the reef – situated approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan – is classified as Philippine EEZ, where Filipinos are the only ones entitled to exploit it under international law and the Hague Tribunal ruling.
Julian Felipe Reef made headlines in March when around 200 Chinese ships were spotted.
Due to China’s prolonged presence in the reef, the DFA has filed several diplomatic protests and the DND has dispatched additional assets to the area.
In an online briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines is only one of three claimants to Julian Felipe Reef, along with Vietnam and China.
“Yung sinasabi namang incursions, uulitin ko po, yung mga napakaraming fishing boats sa Julian Felipe, yan po ay napakalayo sa atin,” Roque said.
(Regarding the allegations of incursions, I would like to reiterate that there are many fishing boats at Julian Felipe Reef that are far from us.)
“All we’re saying is we’re never in possession of that area. We’re making a big thing out of the fact that the area naman, in the first place, was never under our possession. Pinalalaki po. Pinalalaki ang issue.”
(All we’re saying is we’re never in possession of that area. We’re making a big thing out of the fact that the area was never under our possession. This issue is being exaggerated.)
“Kasi alam mo hindi po yan kabahagi ng ating EEZ, yung Julian Felipe. Labas po yan, ganyan po kalayo yan,” he went on.
(It is not even in our EEZ, this Julian Felipe. It’s way out there; it’s that far.)
Julian Felipe Reef is located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.
Even so, Roque said the Philippines is still claiming the Julian Felipe Reef.
“It doesn’t weaken anything kasi hindi naman natin gini-give-up iyong claim natin to Julian Felipe pursuant to Marcos appending Julian Felipe into the territory of the Philippines. That is our evidence of effective occupation,” Roque said.
He was talking about Ferdinand Marcos’ decree declaring Julian Felipe Reef belongs to the Kalayaan Group of Islands.
Julian Felipe Reef is about 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan, well within the 200-nautical mile EEZ rule according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“Ang totoong nag-aagawan dyan sa area na yan, ang Vietnam saka ang China. Bakit si President Duterte ang tinatanong kung ano ang gagawin nya dyan? Bakit hindi tanungin ang mga Vietnamese dahil unang una mas malapit sa kanila yan at pangalawa, sila talaga yung nag-aagawan sa area na yan,” Roque said.
(The true rivals in that area are China and Vietnam. Why is President Duterte being asked what he’s going to do there? Why not ask the Vietnamese? First of all, it’s closest to them and second, they’re the real competitors.)
“Bakit ang sisi e binibigay kay Presidente Duterte? Remember, we’re not the only claimants there,” he added.
(How come President Duterte gets blamed? It’s not just us.)
In a separate statement, Roque said Julian Felipe Reef “forms part of the territorial sea generated by two High Tide Elevations (HTEs) currently occupied by China (Mckennan) and Vietnam (Sin Cowe).”
Under the UNCLOS, Roque said the Julian Felipe Reef should at least “be delimited” because of the overlapping maritime zones.
“While Julian Felipe Reef is not within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) because it forms part of the territorial sea of Mckennan which we claim in accordance with the Marcos Presidential Decree, it is in our country’s interest to continuously pursue our claim through diplomacy or in the future by submitting it to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice,” he added.
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