The Chinese Embassy in Manila hit back at Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for accusing China of taking Philippine officials for a ride with their presence at the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
The Chinese Embassy made the statement after Lorenzana strongly called for the pullout of the remaining 44 Chinese vessels from the reef located some 180 nautical miles from Bataraza, Palawan.
“I am no fool. The weather has been good so far, so they have no other reason to stay there. These vessels should be on their way out. Umalis na kayo diyan (Leave),” he said.
In response, the Chinese Embassy in Manila wrote in a Facebook post that it was only normal for Chinese vessels to be in that part of the disputed waters because the Julian Felipe Reef, which they call Niu’e Jiao, was supposedly part of China.
“The Chinese Embassy has taken note of the perplexing statement by Philippine Defense Secretary on Chinese fishing vessels around Niu’e Jiao in the South China Sea… The Niu’e Jiao is part of China’s Nansha Islands. The waters around Niu’e Jiao has been a traditional fishing ground for Chinese fishermen for many years,” the embassy’s post read.
“The Chinese fishermen have been fishing in the waters for their livelihood every year. It is completely normal for Chinese fishing vessels to fish in the waters and take shelter near the reef during rough sea conditions,” it added.
“Nobody has the right to make wanton remarks on such activities,” it said.
Despite this, the Chinese Embassy reiterated that China remains committed to keeping peace and stability in the disputed waters but asked officials to refrain from making “unprofessional remarks.”
“China is committed to safeguarding peace and stability in the waters and we hope that authorities concerned would make constructive efforts and avoid any unprofessional remarks which may further fan irrational emotions,” the embassy said.
On Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. in a meeting in Fujian Province China’s willingness to work with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries to promote the early implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, to accelerate consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, so as to maintain stability in the region.
However, it was not specified if the issue of the Julian Felipe Reef was discussed during the meeting.
Early this week, a Philippine military aircraft received warnings from a Chinese fleet when it flew over the Julian Felipe Reef to check the presence of Chinese vessels in an area considered way within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Over 200 suspected Chinese militia vessels flocked the reef last month.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Locsin said shooting down a Philippine military aircraft in the West Philippine Sea could end in either of two things: start of World War 3 or end of the prestige of the United States as a superpower and policeman of the world.