Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Wednesday directed his department to file a diplomatic protest against China following the continued presence of Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef, a feature that is way within the Philippines exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Locsin tweeted his directive amid calls from Beijing urging the Philippine Coast Guard to stop conducting maritime drills in the West Philippine Sea.
“They can say what they want from the Chinese mainland; we continue to assert from our waters by right of international law what we won in The Hague. But we must not fail to protest, @DFAPHL, have we fired off a diplomatic protest? Do it now,” the foreign secretary said.
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called on the Philippine Coast Guard to “stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes.”
Wang insisted on China’s sovereignty over the Spratlys (Nansha in Chinese) that include the Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island).
“China enjoys sovereignty over [the islands] and their adjacent waters, and exercises jurisdiction in relevant waters,” Wang said.
The Philippine Coast Guard conducted a drill in the West Philippine Sea portion near the Spratlys weeks after more than 200 Chinese vessels were spotted lingering in and around Julian Felipe Reef which is located approximately 170 nautical miles from Bataraza town of Palawan.
Under the Duterte administration, the Philippines has already filed a total of 78 diplomatic protests against China as of April 26, 2021, according to DFA Executive Director for Strategic Communications Ivy Banzon-Abalos.
Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. disclosed that there are still about nine Chinese vessels – fishing or maritime militia – that are moored in Julian Felipe Reef.
Through the DFA, Esperon said the Philippines will continue to lodge diplomatic protests against China “on a daily basis” and “as long as they are there”.
Esperon said the diplomatic protests could be proven “effective” considering that most of the Chinese vessels have dispersed to other reefs and features being occupied by China.