The Philippines has filed at least 405 diplomatic protests over China’s aggression in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.
The DFA announced this through its budget sponsor, Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, during the plenary deliberations on the department’s proposed P20.4-billion budget for 2023, GMA News reported.
“Since 2020, we have filed 405 protests, including diplomatic notes on the daily illegal presence of Chinese vessels in Pag-asa island and Julian Felipe Reef, as well as Chinese illegal activities in the West Philippine Sea such as radio challenges, dangerous maneuvers, among others,” Abante said.
“The DFA will continue to assert the Philippine sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, and the best way to do it is to file a diplomatic protest,” he added.
Vowing not to surrender even a square inch of territory, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Saturday asserted the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, saying there is no “territorial conflict” with China.
Instead, Mr. Marcos said what exists is a “territorial challenge” with Beijing claiming what is part of the Philippines.
“The position that the Philippines takes is that we have no territorial conflict with China. What we have [is] China claiming territory that belongs to the Philippines,” Mr. Marcos said in an interview with former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who hosted the meeting with the Asia Society in New York on Saturday morning (Manila time).
Mr. Marcos told members of Asia Society that incursions in the West Philippine Sea have become “an issue right at the gut of our people.”
Abante cited the protests after Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman countered the President’s statement that the Philippines has no territorial conflict with China.
Lagman, however, said the hundreds of protests were not enough to stop China’s defiance of the Hague ruling, the landmark July 2016 UN Permanent Court of Arbitration decision rejecting its expansive nine-dash line claim of the entire South China Sea.
The same ruling also declared the Spratly Islands, as well as the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank are all within the Philippines’ EEZ.
Mr. Marcos promised to continue working with all claimant countries to solve the issues “through diplomacy and dialogue,” he said the Philippines will stand firm on its position in the West Philippine Sea.
“I will not preside over any process that will abandon even a square inch of the territory of the Republic of the Philippines to any foreign power,” he said.
Abante emphasized that DFA’s mandate is to file a diplomatic protest.
“The DFA will not go to war because filing diplomatic protests is really the work of the DFA,” Abante said.
“We have never said that we do not have a territorial conflict with China. We maintain sovereignty on these islands, which China is trying to occupy,” Abante added.
Lagman said the Philippines should start pushing for the enforcement of the Hague ruling.
“For every day that we are not enforcing the arbitral ruling, we are surrendering not only inches but hectares of our rich maritime resource,” he said.