DFA files another protest vs China as senators back defense chief in word war
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) fired off another diplomatic protest against China on Monday as some senators rallied behind Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in denouncing the presence of Chinese ships at Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
Malacañang, on the other hand, sought to defuse the tension between its executive agencies and Beijing, saying it wanted a peaceful resolution to their row over the activities at the reef, located 324 kilometers west of Palawan province and well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The DFA’s protest is the second filed against Beijing after the protest lodged on March 21. In a strongly worded statement on Monday, the agency said, “For every day of delay [of the Chinese ships leaving], the Republic of the Philippines will lodge a diplomatic protest.”
The DFA deplored the Chinese Embassy’s statement on Sunday criticizing Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as being “unprofessional” when he called for the withdrawal of the Chinese ships.
The agency also criticized Beijing’s “blatant falsehoods such as claims of adverse weather conditions when there were none and the supposed non-existence of maritime militia vessels in the area.”
It reminded the Chinese Embassy that its officials are “guests” of the Philippine government and “must at all times observe protocol and accord respect to Philippine Government officials.”
Senators rallied behind Lorenzana and praised his pushback against Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea.
“It is high time that the country as one nation stand up to China’s continued incursion in the West Philippine Sea. By all accounts, it is maritime bullying,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said in a statement.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Filipinos “should stand foursquare” behind Lorenzana for defending the country’s sovereign rights.
“All these have legal basis under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the existing arbitral ruling in our favor,” Lacson said in another statement.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said China should put an end to its “dubious and illegal claim” over the country’s EEZ and its sovereign waters.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the “international community stands beside us in condemning China’s continued deceit and aggression.”
“China better pack up and leave. The world is catching on to China’s gray zone smokescreen,” Hontiveros said.
Sen. Grace Poe said, “We must protect our fishermen’s right to livelihood in our seas. Clearly, they are among our most vulnerable population who brave the perils of the ocean just to put food on every Filipino’s table.”
Surigao del Sur Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said: “I hope that the good secretary is joined by the other members of the Cabinet in his stance against China, but Secretary Lorenzana should walk the talk.”
In a Twitter post, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon said “the strong position taken by the SND (Secretary of National Defense)… is a crossing of the Rubicon. It must be backed up with actions otherwise the Chinese will be emboldened to proceed with their plan to occupy more of [the country’s] EEZ regardless of what [the Philippines] says.”
In his press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque maintained there was no “word war” between Beijing and Manila’s foreign affairs and defense departments.
“The President is confident that because we have a close friendship [with China], this dispute will be resolved,” said Roque.
“I think Secretary Lorenzana was correct in pointing out that we consider that area as part also of Philippine territory and exclusive economic zone,” he added.
—WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA AND NESTOR CORRALES
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