The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday filed a diplomatic protest against China over the illegal confiscation by the Chinese Coast Guard of fish aggregating devices (payaos) of Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc in May.
In a brief statement, the DFA said it also resolutely objected to China’s “continuing illicit issuance of radio challenges” on Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
The DFA, however, did not say why it took them almost three months to file the protest. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Friday the diplomatic protest will not affect the relationship between the two Asian countries.
“‘Yang mga protests naman ginagawa talaga ‘yan ng ating mga diplomats kung mayroon sa tingin natin na lalabag sa ating soberanya (Those protests are something that our diplomats normally file whenever they think our sovereign rights are violated),” he said.
“Pero hindi naman po makakaapekto doon sa kabuuan ng ating matalik na pagsasamahan sa panig ng bansa natin at ng bansang Tsina (But this won’t affect the entirety of our intimate relationship with China),” Roque added.
Also known as the Scarborough Shoal, Bajo de Masinloc was the site of the April 2012 tense standoff between the Philippine Navy and the mammoth fleets of the Chinese Coast Guard as an offshoot of the reported illegal poaching activities conducted by Chinese fishermen in the area.
Bajo de Masinloc is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales and is an integral part of the Philippine territory under the Municipality of Masinloc, Province of Zambales.
On July 12, 2016, the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippine petition to invalidate Beijing’s historical “nine-dash line” claim in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea.
Despite the ruling in favor of the Philippines, President Duterte opted to set it aside to build stronger relations with China.
China, however, refused to honor the United Nationsbacked court ruling, claiming indisputable sovereignty over the vast waters of the South China Sea.
Aside from the Philippines and China, countries such as Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam have conflicting claims over the South China Sea, a region known to be rich in oil and natural gas reserves.