By Aie Balagtas See
The Philippine foreign secretary on Thursday ordered that new diplomatic protests be filed against Beijing over the ongoing presence of more than 100 Chinese ships in waters claimed by Manila in the South China Sea.
Teodoro Locsin Jr., who is in the United States for an official visit, issued three messages via Twitter ordering the Department of Foreign Affairs to file the protests. The new diplomatic protests are the latest since the Philippines began filing daily protests against Chinese incursions in Manila’s exclusive economic zone in the sea earlier this year.
“File now our protest on China’s incessant & unlawful restriction of Filipino fishermen from conducting legitimate fishing activities in Bajo de Masinloc,” Locsin said, using the Philippine name for the Scarborough Shoal.
Manila considers Scarborough Shoal, a reef located 118 nautical miles (218.5 km) west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, to be within its 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
In his other tweets, Locsin ordered protests on “Chinese radio challenges unlawfully issued against Philippine maritime patrols,” and on the “continued presence of Chinese fishing vessels in [the] vicinity of Iroquois Reef.”
Additional details about the Chinese ships were not released.
In early April, Locsin said the Philippines would file “daily diplomatic protests” with Beijing during a quarrel that began in March, when the Philippine military reported spotting more than 200 Chinese fishing boats which, it alleged, were manned by militia. The fishing boats later scattered, but security analysts said they may have moved to other parts of the disputed region.
BenarNews could not immediately determine if the daily protests had stopped. Diplomats previously said that, for as long as there were Chinese incursions, the protests would continue.
Locsin’s orders came a day after Rep. Ruffy Biazon said that 150 Chinese fishing ships had been spotted in the West Philippine Sea, Manila’s name the South China Sea. Without elaborating, Biazon said the Chinese ships appeared to be part of a fishing fleet and were moving from one area to another.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond when contacted by BenarNews.
Last month, the military’s Western Command (Westcom), based in Palawan province, said Philippine aircraft were warned by China while they patrolled the skies above the South China Sea. An internal Westcom report claimed that China had fired five flares between June 16 and 22 at Philippine military aircraft conducting security patrols.
China took control of the shoal in 2012 and engaged with the Philippine Coast Guard in a tense standoff before both sides agreed to leave waters around it.
The Philippines stuck to the deal but the Chinese never left, forcing Manila to file a case with an international arbitral tribunal, which in 2016 ruled in its favor. China however has said that it does not recognize the ruling by the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including waters also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. While Indonesia does not regard itself as party to the dispute, Beijing claims historic rights to parts of that sea overlapping Indonesia’s EEZ as well.