The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) asserted that it is not controlled by any foreign entity in lodging diplomatic protests against other countries.
In a statement, the department stressed that its diplomatic protests are “sufficiently grounded” on recommendations and reports from the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS).
“The DFA, as the chief implementer of an independent foreign policy, as mandated by the Philippine Constitution, is not beholden to any foreign entity and serves only the interests of the Philippines and the Filipino people,” it said.
The Foreign Affairs department was reacting to a column published in a local daily newspaper entitled “DFA protests controlled by the US State Department?”
“The Department protests any act by foreign entities that threaten and undermine the country’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and legitimate maritime entitlements,” it stressed.
It pointed out that most of the Philippines’ diplomatic protests were lodged against China “simply because it is the country that has been conducting the most illegal and provocative actions in the WPS.”
These activities range from the harassment of Filipino fishermen, shadowing and harassment of Philippine maritime assets, unauthorized marine scientific research, and non-innocent passage in the Philippines’ archipelagic waters, even during military exercises.
“China undertakes these activities in spite of the agreement between President Duterte and President Xi to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the SCS (South China Sea),” the DFA said.
It further explained that the framework for filing of protests is “clear and automatic: once a transgression is verified, a protest is filed.”
Under the Duterte administration, the department has filed over 300 protests against unprovoked Chinese illegal activities in the West Philippine Sea.
It has also filed six protests on illegal activities by Viet Nam in the Philippines’ legitimate maritime zones.
“The timing and publication of information on diplomatic protests is the sole prerogative of the DFA and of no other entity. Unless this framework is changed by the next administration, protests will continue to be filed,” the DFA said.
On the case of the alleged harassment of RV Legend, a Taiwanese research vessel also carrying Filipino scientists, the department underscored that the “blatant Chinese actions against the Philippines” prompted the DFA to protest and publicize it.
“This particular marine scientific research, which aimed to collect data on the geologic structure of the Manila Trench and Western Luzon, would have resulted in the increased knowledge on offshore faults and other features that may become sites of earthquakes, tsunamis, and other hazards, that will benefit not only the Philippines, but also the rest of the region,” the DFA said.
The department assured the public that it “upholds only the country’s national interest and the interest of the Filipino people, and it shall relentlessly defend the sovereignty of the republic.”