Despite more than 200 diplomatic protests filed by the Philippines accusing China of repeatedly harassing its patrol vessels, particularly in the West Philippine Sea, Beijing defended its actions and vowed to continue its law enforcement activities in the disputed South China Sea, describing them as "legitimate and justified."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stressed that China’s activities would continue despite Manila's repeated protests against harassment by China while conducting maritime patrols in Philippine territorial waters.
"China's position on the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear-cut. It is legitimate and reasonable for China's maritime law enforcement authorities to conduct law enforcement activities in waters under China's jurisdiction in accordance with domestic laws and international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," Wang said in a press conference in Beijing on Oct.21.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said over 200 diplomatic protests were lodged against China over "unlawful radio challenges, sounding of sirens, and blowing of horns" during patrols by Philippine vessels within the West Philippine Sea.
China and the Philippines have been embroiled in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, particularly in its southern part called the Spratlys.
In 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidated the nine-dash line claims of China over the South China Sea and upheld Manila’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
A vital trading and shipping lane and also home to rich oil and mineral deposits, the South China Sea is claimed in part or in whole by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
China's vast territorial claims in the waters have sparked tensions and violent confrontations with smaller claimants, like the Philippines and Vietnam.