MANILA, Mar 24, 2021, The Manila Times. Manila on Tuesday demanded that Beijing withdraw its Chinese fishing vessels and maritime assets in the Kalayaan Group of Islands (KIG) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), The Manila Times reported.
The Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), also asked China “to direct its fishing vessels to desist from environmentally destructive activities.”
The National Task Force on the WPS on Sunday reported that Chinese fishing vessels believed manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel were sighted moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef on March 7.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Sunday filed a diplomatic protest on the Chinese incursion.
But the Chinese Embassy in Manila denied the presence of Chinese maritime militia in the KIG as it insisted that the area was under its territory which it called Niu’e Jiao.
“The Philippines demands that China promptly withdraw its fishing vessels and maritime assets in the vicinity and adjacent waters of relevant features in the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the West Philippine Sea,” the DFA said in a statement.
The DFA said the Philippines “has been assiduously protesting the illegal and lingering (swarming) presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime assets in the said areas.”
The government said Julian Felipe Reef in the KIG lies in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“We reiterate that the continued deployment, lingering presence and activities of Chinese vessels in Philippine maritime zones blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction,” the DFA said.
“China’s continuing infringements and tolerance thereof, notwithstanding the persistent and resolute protests of the government of the Republic of the Philippines, are contrary to China’s commitments under international law and the Asean-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” it added.
The Philippines also called on China to “faithfully honor its obligations” as a State Party to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and to respect and abide by the final and binding July 12, 2016 Award in the South China Sea Arbitration.
DFA Assistant Secretary Ivy Banzon noted that under the Duterte administration, the DFA has filed a total of 60 diplomatic notes, 45 of which were issues under Locsin’s tenure.
“To date, China has only addressed issues raised in 48 diplomatic notes,” Banzon added.