PH summons Chinese envoy over Julian Felipe Reef issue

Published April 13, 2021, 3:18 PM

by Roy Mabasa

The Philippine government has summoned Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian and demanded that China ensure the immediate departure of all its remaining vessels from the area of Julian Felipe Reef and the country’s other maritime zones. 

Photo of Chinese vessels spotted at the Julian Felipe Reef on March 27, 2021
(Photo courtesy of National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea / FILE PHOTO)

DFA Acting Undersecretary Elizabeth P. Buensuceso informed Huang on Monday, April 12, that the continuing presence of Chinese vessels around the Reef, which lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, is a “source of regional tension”.

Buensuceso stressed to the Chinese diplomat 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”

During the summoning, the DFA official also reminded Huang of proper decorum and manners in the conduct of their duties as guests of the Philippines. Buensuceso was referring to the “untoward” statements made by the Chinese Embassy spokesperson who branded as “unprofessional” the call of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for the more than 200 Chinese vessels to immediately leave the Julian Felipe Reef. 

Both sides affirmed the use of peaceful settlement of disputes in addressing their differences on the South China Sea and West Philippine Seas issues.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. told China that it’s “time to go” for the remaining “over a dozen” Chinese vessels in the Reef.

“Come, come, time to go. As I said, while it may well be traditional fishing grounds, tradition yields to law and the law on the matter is UNCLOS and the Arbitral Award and the common rules of statutory construction,” Locsin said. 

This is the first time that the Chinese envoy has been summoned by the Philippine government over the West Philippine Sea issue, according to DFA Executive Director for Strategic Communications Ivy Banzon-Abalos.