The Philippines fired off a fresh diplomatic protest against China, citing its “incessant deployment” of militia vessels and the “illegal activities” of these ships near Pag-asa Island in the Kalayaan Island Group.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs lodged a diplomatic protest yesterday (Friday) against the incessant deployment, prolonged presence, and illegal activities of Chinese maritime assets and fishing vessels in the vicinity of the Pag-asa islands, demanding that China withdraw these vessels,” the DFA said in a statement Saturday.
“The Pag-asa Islands is an integral part of the Philippines over which it has sovereignty and jurisdiction,” it added.
Pag-asa Island, situated in the West Philippine Sea, is an island barangay and the capital of Kalayaan municipality in Palawan.
On May 17, the DFA also protested China’s unilateral fishing ban that covered areas on Philippine territory and exclusive economic zone (EEZ), including the Bajo de Masinloc.
Satellite images released by geospatial intelligence firm Simularity on April 28 showed that approximately 11 vessels are in Julian Felipe Reef, 158 ships near McKennan (Hughes) Reef, and 87 ships near Burgos (Gaven) Reef. Based on the satellite images on May 13, no ships were detected at Julian Felipe Reef and McKennan Reef. However, around 234 Chinese vessels have been spotted on Burgos Reef as of May 18.
Meanwhile, the Philippines thanked the Japanese government for its call for peace and stability in the South China Sea as well as its support for the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling that invalidated Beijing’s massive nine-dash-line claim over the entire SCS.
DFA Acting Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and Asean Affairs Elizabeth Buensuceso relayed the message during the recently concluded 36th ASEAN-Japan Forum held via video conference.
“The Philippines thanked Japan for its statement of support for peace and stability in the region through the enforcement of the rule of law in the seas, and working with the international community to protect free, open, and peaceful seas. Undersecretary Buensuceso also welcomed Japan’s expressed support for the 2016 arbitral award that contributes to the rules-based order in the South China Sea,” the DFA stated in a briefer.
Buensuceso underscored that the presence and swarming of Chinese maritime militia within the country’s maritime zones not only infringes upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction but also threatens the security and stability in the region.
“As a family bound together...the best way to move forward against collective threats and challenges is to present a united front. Japan is our strong partner in maintaining peace and security in our region,” Buensuceso said.
Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan Takeo Mori, for his part, echoed Buensuceso’s statement.
“We are facing the same challenges, and we are on the same page,” Mori said.