By Junex Doronio
April 3, 2021
MANILA — Just as Fernando Poe Jr.’s classic action movie “Kapag Puno na ang Salop,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had had enough of Chinese bullying with their latest antic of having Chinese vessels mass up in Julian Felipe Reef, which is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
“I am no fool. The weather has been good so far, so they have no other reason to stay there,” Lorenzana said in a strongly-worded statement. “Umalis na kayo diyan (You should leave.)”
Lorenzana reiterated on Saturday, April 3, the Philippines’ demand for Chinese vessels to leave the West Philippine Sea, saying they have “no other reason” to stay in the hotly contested waters.
The defense chief stressed that Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian “has a lot of explaining to do,” as the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) observed 44 Chinese vessels still remain in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef.
This seemed to be a significant reduction in the Chinese ships moored, anchored and stationary at Julian Felipe Reef, where the NTF-WPS initially recorded 220 vessels suspected to be part of Beijing’s maritime militia.
But on closer look, Chinese vessels have since scattered to other features in the Kalayaan Island Group, which is under the jurisdiction of Palawan.
“We, again, reiterate our demand for the Chinese to leave our sovereign territories and abide by international law,” Lorenzana said.
China earlier gave a lame excuse that the ships at Julian Felipe Reef, known to them as Niué Jiao, were only taking shelter from rough sea conditions and insisted that this is completely normal as it asserted its claims over the sea feature.
It can be recalled that in 2016, a Hague-based tribunal declared void China’s sweeping claims over most of the South China Sea, but China continues to junk this ruling.
President Rodrigo Duterte has raised the issue with China’s envoy, while Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has lodged a diplomatic protest with Beijing. (AI/MTVN)