By Roy Mabasa
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Wednesday ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a fresh diplomatic protest against China after the military confirmed the incursion of Chinese vessels near the disputed Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea.
“I’m in Moscow. Do I have to fly back home to file the diplomatic protest myself? That’s the military speaking. File now!” Locsin said in a tweet.
At the Senate hearing on Tuesday, newly appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Noel Clement reported the sighting of the Chinese vessels in the Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal) to the DFA for “appropriate diplomatic action.”
“The mere presence there if there is no request for passage prior to that will have to be reported,” Clement told reporters.
The AFP chief said it is up for the DFA to determine whether “it is a violation or not,” adding that the report was made through the West Philippine Sea task force.
In a brief report posted last week, the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, through a brief released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said Beijing was sending larger but lightly armed coast guard vessels around Ayungin Shoal and Luconia Shoals in the Spratlys, and Panatag Shoal to the north.
Early last month, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China’s series of unannounced passages in Sibutu Strait, the southernmost part of the Philippines.