Ex-DFA chief Del Rosario supports gov’t effort in summoning Chinese envoy over the Julian Felipe Reef issue

Published April 13, 2021, 8:24 PM

by Roy Mabasa

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario on Tuesday said the lingering of Chinese vessels at Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) in the West Philippine Sea is an “open and continuing violation of our laws.”

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario

Del Rosario made this statement shortly after the news broke out that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has summoned Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian over the presence of the Chinese vessels in the Reef which is located inside the country’s exclusive economic zone.

The former top diplomat who was one of the architects behind the Philippine arbitration case against China also expressed his support for the DFA’s effort in summoning Huang over the presence of the Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef.

“The lingering Chinese presence in Julian Felipe Reef is an open and continuing violation of our laws. It is but right that our leaders do whatever is necessary to address this open and continuing insult to Filipinos,” said Del Rosario who served as foreign secretary under the administration of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

By summoning the Chinese envoy, Del Rosario said the DFA has acted consistently with its collective constitutional duty to protect the country’s “national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination.” 

“This is truly the ‘independent foreign policy’ contemplated by our Constitution, which is to protect our national heritage in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

Del Rosario further explained that the continued lingering of the Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef “violates the country’s laws specifically the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 (RA 8550, as amended). In part, the law provides that “it shall be unlawful for any foreign person, corporation or entity to fish or operate any fishing vessel in Philippine waters.”

“Our law also provides that the entry of any foreign fishing vessel in Philippine waters shall constitute a prima facie presumption that the vessel is engaged in fishing in Philippine waters,” said the former DFA secretary who now chairs a Manila-based think-tank named after him. 

On Monday, DFA Acting Undersecretary Elizabeth Buensuceso formally informed Huang that the continuing presence of Chinese vessels around Julian Felipe Reef is a “source of regional tension”.

Buensuceso told the Chinese envoy that the July 2016 Award in the South China Sea Arbitration ruled that Beijing’s claims to historic rights or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction that exceed the geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) are “without lawful effect”.