PH to file another diplomatic protest over presence of two Chinese ships in EEZ

Published August 9, 2019, 11:38 AM

by AJ Siytangco

By Martin Sadongdong and Roy Mabasa

The Philippines is “firing off” another diplomatic protest against China over the presence of two Chinese research vessels in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

(L-R) Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (Photos from AP and Office of the Secretary of National Defense / MANILA BULLETIN)
(L-R) Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (Photos from AP and Office of the Secretary of National Defense / MANILA BULLETIN)

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said this in reaction to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who expressed alarm over the sighting of the two Chinese survey ships.

“Okay, got it, General. @DFAPHL firing off diplomatic protest,” Locsin said in a post on Twitter.

“Zhanjian” and “Dong Fang Hong 3” are both Chinese oceanographic survey ships that were spotted within the country’s EEZ, according to Ryan Martinson, an assistant professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute of the United States Naval War College.

Lorenzana said the Chinese government has not yet informed the Philippine government about the business of the two Chinese survey ships operating within the country’s EEZ.

But Martinson believes that the ships were conducting marine scientific research.

READ MORE: Defense chief raised alarm over presence of Chinese survey ships in waters off Siargao, northern Luzon

“We do not have the capability to confirm this on our own, especially in the east fronting the Pacific Ocean because we do not have any radar equipment there to monitor the area. In the West Philippine Sea, if it is far, our radar cannot see them but other agencies like US, another country who has satellite, they can monitor that,” Lorenzana admitted in a live television interview over ANC.

The Zhanjian was believed to have been operating 75 nautical miles from the coast of Siargao Island since Saturday, August 3, while the Dong Fang Hong 3 was spotted near northern Luzon on Wednesday, August 7, Martinson said.

“If they are on a peaceful research, you know the water is flowing from one place to another and maybe they were just trying to study the waters or the fish because the fish are migratory, I think they can do that but they should inform us what they are doing there,” Lorenzana stressed.

“If the intention is only to study the sea or fish or the marine life, then it is not a security threat. But if they are doing other things, like making surveillance of our positions, then it’s different,” he added.

Under Article 246 (2) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), it is stated that “Marine scientific research in the exclusive economic zone and on the continental shelf shall be conducted with the consent of the coastal State.”

UNCLOS establishes a comprehensive legal framework to govern all activities and uses of the world’s seas and oceans. Both the Philippines and China are signatories in the UNCLOS.

As for Lorenzana, he said the national government should ask China what their survey ships were doing in the Philippines’ EEZ.

“The action that I would like our government to do is to inform or ask the Chinese embassy what these ships are doing in our EEZ without our knowledge,” he said.

Last June, the Philippines also filed a diplomatic protest against Beijing over the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat in Reed Bank. It was followed last month by another protest concerning the “swarming” of Chinese vessels off Pagasa (Thitu) Island within the country’s EEZ in the South China Sea.

Malacañang had earlier announced that President Duterte will raise the arbitral ruling with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to China late this month.

READ MORE: Duterte to rush conclusion of code of conduct in South China Sea