China asked the Philippines to stop an ongoing maritime exercises of the Philippine Coast Guard in West Philippine Sea but the Department of National Defense (DND) fired back and said China has no business telling the Philippines what it can or cannot do within its waters.
“The arbitral award has categorically stated that the Chinese claim bounded by their so-called nine-dash line according to their ‘historical right’ has no basis in fact,” says DND spokesman Arsenio Andolong in a statement.
“Therefore, it is they who are encroaching and should desist and leave. We will continue to do what is necessary to protect our sovereign rights,” he added.
Earlier, Beijing’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told Philippine officials to “stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes,” following his claims that China has sovereignty over what it calls the Nansha Islands or the Spratlys, which includes Zhongye Island or Pag-asa Island and Zhongsha Islands that include Huangyan Island or the Scarborough Shoal.
The areas lie within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea, which is a part of the South China Sea.
China claims that it enjoys sovereignty over the islands and adjacent waters, and exercises jurisdiction in relevant waters. Wang also stressed that China urges the relevant side to respect their country’s sovereignty and rights and interests.
China was reacting to the maritime exercises being held by ships of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) near Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc starting April 24, to supposedly intensify their training on navigation, small boat operations, maintenance and logistical operations.
Coast guard vessels have also been deployed near Pag-asa Island for their inter-operability training.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Cendaña Esperon, Jr. said the National Task Force for West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) of the Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) and Philippine National Police-Maritime Group (PNP-MG) deployed law enforcement ships in the disputed waters as a way of backing up the Philippine’s military assets to enforce the country’s claim on the territory.
The Philippines last week filed two new diplomatic protests against China over its illegal presence in Philippine waters. Panatag Shoal is a traditional fishing ground off the coast of Zambales while Pag-asa Island is under the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan.
The Philippines protested the “belligerent” actions of Chinese Coast Guard to Philippine Coast Guard vessels patrolling and conducting training exercises in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said these actions include “shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuver and radio challenges.”
The DFA maintained that since Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and Bajo de Masinloc are integral parts of the Philippines, it can conduct maritime patrols and training exercises in these areas.
“China has no law enforcement rights in these areas,” the DFA said.
“The presence of Chinese Coast Guard vessels in the Philippines’ territorial waters of Pag-asa Islands and Bajo de Masinloc, and exclusive economic zone, raises serious concern,” it added.
The DFA also said it rejects the April 26 statement of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that China has sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc.
“(The statement) is without basis in international laws, including the 1982 United Nations Convention of the law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and is not recognized by the international community,” the DFA said.