Manila files 100 protest notes against Beijing's sea incursions

MANILA • The Philippines has filed 100 diplomatic protests against China's various incursions in the West Philippine Sea despite President Rodrigo Duterte's vaunted "pivot to China" foreign policy.

A department official said the tally has been accumulated since Mr Duterte came to power in June 2016.

The department last Friday filed its 100th diplomatic protest against the "incessant deployment, prolonged presence, and illegal activities" of Chinese vessels particularly off Pag-asa, also known as Thitu Island. China calls it Zhongye Island.

The department asserted that Pag-asa island is an "integral part of the Philippines over which it has sovereignty and jurisdiction".

The Philippines has been filing protests almost daily since April, when Chinese vessels started swarming around Julian Felipe Reef, also known as Whitsun Reef. At least 220 Chinese vessels moored and lined up in the vicinity of the reef in April.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr earlier vowed to "fire off" a diplomatic protest against China every day to clear the country's 370km exclusive economic zone of any illegal Chinese vessel.

A lawmaker also urged the government to take additional steps to secure the country's maritime domain and sought the allocation of an initial 5 billion pesos (S$139 million) for the installation of 12 naval outposts.

Representative Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the House strategic intelligence committee, wants the naval bases to be built in 12 key areas in the country, including the West Philippine Sea.

Mr Pimentel said four of the naval bases would be positioned in Luzon's western seaboard and three on the eastern coast to guard the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Rise.

"We expect the outposts to serve as the future staging and resupply sites for the navy's new generation of warships and battle craft," he said.

Mr Duterte has been under increasing domestic pressure to take a harder line against China. In late April, he said he would not withdraw navy and coast guard boats patrolling the disputed waters in the South China Sea.

At the same time, however, he called China "a good friend", which the Philippines owed a "big debt of gratitude" for its help with the Covid-19 vaccine donation, among other things.

PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

  • 12

  • Number of naval outposts a Philippine lawmaker is urging the government to build, to secure the country's maritime domain.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2021, with the headline Manila files 100 protest notes against Beijing's sea incursions. Subscribe