After the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) complained about a dangerous maneuver by a Chinese vessel in Bajo de Masinloc, Zambales earlier this month, Beijing called on Manila to respect its disputed sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal.
In a press conference, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that Huangyan Dao (Scarborough Shoal) “is China’s inherent erritory” — a view that the Philippines disputes.
The foreign ministry spokesman also asked Manila to “avoid interfering” with the patrol operations of the China Coast Guard (CCG).
In response to the Chinese statement, the Palace said the Philippines will continue to exercise full sovereignty in Scarborough Shoal.
Palace spokesman Martin Andanar said the Philippine position is to continue to exercise full sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc and its territorial sea and sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the surrounding exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said the Philippines has already filed a diplomatic protest over the incident.
The statements came after PCG reported that a CCG vessel with bow number 3305 suddenly approached and stayed about 21 yards from the BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402), which was conducting a maritime patrol in Bajo de Masinloc on March 2.
The PCG described the incident as “close distance maneuvering,” which constrained the maneuvering space of BRP Malabrigo. The PGC said it is a clear violation of the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.
Esperon said while close distance maneuvering can always happen, it is important that the Philippines stands by its sovereignty and assert it through international laws such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“There may be counter claims but we, as a nation, will stand by our established sovereign rights and sovereignty over the area,” said Esperon, who chairs the National Task Force West Philippine Sea.
On March 14, the Department of Foreign Affairs summoned ChineseAmbassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian over the People’s Liberation Army-Navy’s (PLAN’s) reported “illegal incursion” in the Sulu Sea, which happened from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1, 2022.
China said it was an “exercise of the right of innocent passage.”
Also on Tuesday, Senators Grace Poe and Leila de Lima urged the government to act over the presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.
Poe urged the government to act swiftly, saying that maritime problems that pose risks to the safety of navigation and that impedes on Filipinos’ rights to benefit from the country’s exclusive economic zone should not be obscured by the ongoing campaign season.
In a separate statement, De Lima maintained the government should not only condemn the recent incident, but should take steps to stop the Chinese vessels from violating international regulations to prevent collisions at sea.