MANILA – The Philippine government has filed 231 diplomatic protests against Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea since 2016, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported Tuesday night.
DFA Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez, in a text message to reporters, said the notes verbales were all lodged during the time of President Rodrigo Duterte as of November 18.
On November 18, the DFA publicly condemned and protested the Chinese Coast Guard for blocking and firing a water cannon on two Philippine boats that were en route to resupply Filipino troops who are stationed at the Ayungin Shoal.
The boats, identified as Unaizah May 1 and Unaizah May 3, had to abort their mission on November 16 after one of them had its outrigger damaged by the water cannon.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the two resupply boats returned and safely arrived at the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin on November 23.
The incident not only drew outrage from the Philippine government but also raised concern among several nations, including the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the European Union (EU).
Earlier, the EU called on all South China Sea parties to resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
It also reaffirmed the 2016 arbitration award, noting that it found that the Ayungin or Second Thomas Shoal “lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.”
Apart from the Ayungin incident, the DFA early this year flagged China over the swarming of more than a hundred Chinese fishing vessels near the Julian Felipe Reef.
Manila, Beijing, and several other littoral states are locked in a maritime dispute involving the resource-rich South China Sea.
Former International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) president Rüdiger Wolfrum, who was also a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that handed down the 2016 South China Sea ruling, said claimant states should sit down, negotiate, and agree upon a system that would govern the disputed area.
“Sure, protest is a way which is foreseen as a mechanism in international law but it is a one-sided approach,” Wolfrum said in a recent forum organized by the DFA and German Embassy in Manila.
“All states, including the Philippines and the PRC (People’s Republic of China), should sit together and seek ways out of this growing tension, which is existing in the South China Sea.”
China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are currently working towards the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. (PNA)