Diplomatic protests vs China no longer enough to push ships out of West PH Sea – Bayan Muna
MANILA, Philippines — Neither diplomatic protests nor forms of discussion may be enough to compel China to pull its Chinese marine militia fleet out of the West Philippine Sea, Bayan Muna party-list group said on Wednesday.
Bayan Muna made the statement after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. revealed earlier that the country sent off another diplomatic protest a day after the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) reported that around 240 Chinese militia vessels are still inside the territorial waters of the country.
“Filing of diplomatic protests or demarche, or, even summoning China’s ambassador to explain its continued incursions and occupation of maritime features in the West Philippine Sea may no longer be enough,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said in a statement.
“China clearly does not accept accountability and even insisted that Julian Felipe Reef, which is clearly part of our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), is theirs,” he added.
Zarate said that for the Chinese to accept the validity of the Philippine protest, President Duterte must make a firm statement and use other actions, like seeking help from international organizations that resolve territorial disputes.
“China has practically thrown to the garbage the previous diplomatic protests filed by the Philippines as it continuously violates the territory of the Philippines and tramples on our sovereign rights. At best, a diplomatic protest serves to merely register for the record the Philippine government’s position on these incursions,” he explained.
“Unless President Duterte breaks his silence and denounces what China is doing, the diplomatic protests filed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will just continuously fall on China’s deaf ears,” he claimed.
The NTF-WPS report released on Tuesday indicates that Chinese ships — not fishing vessels as declared by Chinese authorities — were found in the Philippine territorial waters of Kalayaan town in Palawan during the latest round of sovereignty patrols.
This is well within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
These acts, the NTF-WPS said, fall under “illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF).”
Zarate said that Duterte, who has so far taken a quiet stance on the matter, could also bring an action under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), invoking the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
“President Rodrigo Duterte can, in fact, resort to UNCLOS and other treaty bodies to demand justice for what China is doing. Malacañang must assert the historic Permanent Tribunal ruling in 2016 and abandon now its so-called ‘soft-landing policy’ in its pivot to China,” Zarate said.
“Finally, the administration of Pres. Duterte should now prioritize and advance the country’s own interests. It is high time that the government now pursue a truly independent foreign policy that is equidistant from the competing imperialist interests of China and western powers led by the US,” he added.
Recently, there have been heated exchanges between the Philippines and China, particularly last March 21, when it was reported that 220 Chinese ships were spotted in line formation near Julian Felipe Reef.
It was not the first diplomatic protest lodged by the DFA. In the meantime, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has released strong-worded statements regarding the Chinese ships still remaining in the area even after repeated requests from the Philippine government.
The Chinese have also sent vessels to the West Philippine Sea on numerous occasions during Duterte’s administration, leading to the Philippines filing numerous protests against the Asian superpower. Beijing has claimed almost full ownership of the South China Sea, saying that its nine-dash line chart is rooted in history.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected China’s nine-dash line assertion — a position Beijing has said it would not recognize.
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