Palace cites diplomatic protests, heightened security as tension in West PH Sea builds up

Published April 14, 2021, 7:56 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang has enumerated its recent responses to the developments in the West Philippine Sea, saying the government has fired diplomatic protests and increased Filipino forces in the disputed waters in an attempt to peacefully settle the issue.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after Filipino business groups joined the call on China to withdraw its vessels from the Julian Felipe Reef and refrain from becoming an imperial power.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (JOEY DALUMPINES/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

In his statement, Roque said President Duterte has already stressed the importance of the Hague ruling and that the Philippines will not set the landmark decision aside.

“President Duterte underscored the importance of the 2016 Arbitral Ruling before the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly,” he said.

Duterte, even though virtually, attended the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September last year for the first time since he became president. He earned praises for asserting the Philippines’ rights over the disputed South China Sea even though Beijing would not budge and continues to reject the 2016 Arbitral Ruling.

Meanwhile, Roque also pointed out that the National Task Force on West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) has always been consistent in invoking Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights over the disputed waters.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), has earlier filed an appropriate diplomatic protest against China and summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian over the Julian Felipe Reef situation. 

Roque also said that the presence of Philippine maritime security and law enforcement forces has been stepped up in the municipality of Kalayaan to protect Filipino fishermen and the marine resources.

The Philippine government found at least 240 ships lingering in the West Philippine Sea and has filed diplomatic protests on the matter.

In a tweet, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he would stop acting only at the request of the NTF-WPS.

“I haven’t heard anything from the fucking NTF-WPS but I’ll take ABS-CBN News’s word for it. Changing my policy of acting only on NTF requests,” he said on the news about the over 200 Chinese vessels in Philippine waters.

“[DFA] FIRE A DIPLOMATIC PROTEST NOW,” he added.

Malacañang has been quiet on the recent developments in the West Philippine Sea, especially after a vessel carrying a news team of ABS-CBN across various reefs and shoals in the disputed waters close to Palawan was chased by two Chinese vessels.

 
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