PH demands China withdraw its over 200 vessels, maritime assets from Julian Felipe Reef

Published March 23, 2021, 7:42 PM

by Roy Mabasa

The Philippines on Tuesday demanded that China withdraw its fishing vessels and maritime assets amassing and moored in the area of Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef), a point within the West Philippine Sea and the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said China’s continued deployment, lingering presence and activities of its vessels in Philippine maritime zones blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.

The government also urged China to direct its fishing vessels to desist from environmentally destructive activities as it has been “assiduously protesting the illegal and lingering (swarming) presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime assets in the area.”

The DFA’s statement came two days after the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China over the presence of the mammoth number of its vessels in the Philippine waters.

“China’s continuing infringements and tolerance thereof, notwithstanding the persistent and resolute protests of the government of the Republic of the Philippines, are contrary to China’s commitments under international law and the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” the DFA said.

Furthermore, the Philippine government called on Beijing to faithfully honor its obligations as a State Party to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and to respect and abide by the final and binding July 12, 2016 Award handed down by the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague that invalidated China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea.

According to the DFA, the Philippines has filed a total of 60 diplomatic notes against Chinese encroachment, 45 of which were issued under the tenure of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., including the latest protest filed on March 21, 2021.

Earlier on Tuesday, the United States, through its Embassy in Manila, said it stands with its oldest ally in Asia, the Philippines, against China’s use of militias to “intimidate, provoke and threaten” other countries.

The US Embassy said this latest Chinese move in the West Philippine Sea  “undermines peace and security in the region.”