With the go-signal of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, the Department of Foreign Affairs has filed a diplomatic protest before Beijing over the incursion of at least 220 Chinese vessels into the Philippines’ territorial waters.
In his Twitter post on Sunday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. initially said that the diplomatic protest comes after over 200 Chinese militia ships were spotted in the Juan Felipe Reef that is within the country’s territorial water.
“So recommended by General Esperon this noon by What’s App. I got the coordinates, so to speak. And relayed to my legal artillery, ‘Fire at will.’ Shell should be flying at first light. I don’t usually announce maneuvers but it seems everybody is baring his chest,” Locsin said.
“Diplomatic protest fired off tonight; can’t wait for first light,” he said in a separate tweet.
The Department of National Defense (DND) on Sunday said the incident was clear sign of provocation by China.
DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in a statement, said this is a “clear provocative action of militarizing the area”, noting that these territories are well within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS) where Filipinos have the sole right to resources under international law and the 2016 arbitral ruling.
“We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory. We are committed to upholding our sovereign rights over the WPS (West Philippine Sea),” he added.
The South China Sea is also known as the West Philippine Sea.
Earlier, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF WPS) expressed concern about a Philippine Coast Guard report that around 220 Chinese fishing vessels, believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, were sighted moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef on March 7, 2021.
“The NTF WPS notes this circumstance as a concern due to the possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to the safety of navigation,” the NTF WPS said.
The reef is a large boomerang-shaped shallow coral reef at the northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs (Union Reefs), located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.