DFA readying China protest

The Department of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday it was awaiting official reports from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other relevant government agencies before taking vigorous diplomatic action in protest of a reported fresh Chinese harassment of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.

The DFA reiterated that the Ayungin Shoal in the WPS, located 105 nautical miles west of Palawan, is part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines.

“The Philippines is entitled to exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the area, without any intervention from another country,” the DFA said.

Filipinos are free to fish and exercise their rights without harassment from any foreign entity in the area under Philippine and international laws, it added.

Philippine sovereignty in the WPS has been affirmed by a 1982 ruling in relation to the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea, and by the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Ruling.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands favored the Philippines’ claim in the West Philippine Sea, rejecting China’s nine-dash line claim.

“Furthermore, the Philippines has established a permanent presence on Ayungin Shoal in 1995 with the actively commissioned Philippine naval vessel, the BRP Sierra Madre,” the DFA added.

The statement came a day after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who visited China earlier this month, said the country shall protest Beijing’s activities in the Ayungin Shoal.

Driven away
Marcos was referring to a report from the Philippine Coast Guard that a Filipino fishing boat was driven away on 9 January by a Chinese Coast Guard ship while fishing in the waters off Ayungin Shoal.

According to the fishermen, the Chinese ship continued to shadow them even after they had altered their course away from Ayungin Shoal.

The incident happened barely a week after Marcos’ first state visit to China, where he met with his counterpart, Chinese President Xi Jinping.

On Monday, Marcos said he had already used the protest mechanism that he proposed to Xi during his visit to Beijing.

“We have immediately used that thing. Hopefully, our counterparts on the other side can bring to President Xi’s attention this problem, and we have done that,” he said.

“But it does not preclude us from continuing to make protests and continuing to send notes verbale concerning this,” he added.

The DFA said it was “vigilantly” monitoring any developments in the WPS, especially following the discussions between Marcos and Xi during the former’s state visit to China.

No conflicting claims
Marcos earlier said the tension between the Philippines and China is something that keeps him “awake at night, in the day, and most of the time.”

He made the statement during his one-on-one forum with World Economic Forum president Børge Brende, when he was asked about his stand on the WPS issue, during his five-day trip to Davos, Switzerland.

The Philippines, he said, has no conflicting claim with China. “What we have is China making claims on our territory and that is ours — that is how we approach the problem that we find,” he said.
Also in Davos, Mr. Marcos said the United States has committed to the Philippines to come to its aid in the event tensions rise in the region due to WPS issues.

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