The Philippines has filed on March 21 a diplomatic protest against China, following a report that over 200 Chinese military vessels have been moored near a coral reef at the West Philippine Sea.
“Diplomatic protest fired off tonight; can’t wait for first light,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. stated in a tweet, after earlier tweeting that he was waiting for an order from National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to file the protest.
“I got the coordinates, so to speak. And relayed to my legal artillery, ‘Fire at will.’ Shell should be flying at first light,” Locsin tweeted, confirming the recommendation from Esperon.
Lorenzana said in a statement that the presence of 220 Chinese militia boats in the Whitsun Reef, located within the Union Reefs, was of “grave concern” and accused China of “provocative action of militarizing the area.”
“These are territories well within Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf where Filipinos have the sole right to resources under international law and the 2016 arbitral ruling,” Lorenza stated.
“We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory,” Lorenzana further stated.
According to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS), a confirmed report from the Philippine Coast Guard said that the Chinese ships moored in line formation in the Whitsun reef on March 7 were “believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel.”
NTF-WPS said that the vessels did not show “actual fishing activities and had their full white lights turned on during night time.”
NTF-WPS also said that the vessels were of concern due to “possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to safety of navigation.”
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