THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday protested the return of over 100 Chinese vessels illegally operating in the waters in and around Julian Felipe Reef, an area within the West Philippine Sea (WPS), barely a year after the Philippine Government protested the same swarming incident.
In a statement, the DFA said the lingering unauthorized presence of Chinese fishing and maritime vessels is not only “illegal” but is also a source of instability in the region.
“The persistent swarming of Chinese vessels is contrary to international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the final and binding 2016 Arbitral Award. It is also a violation of China’s commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, in particular, the exercise of self-restraint pursuant to Paragraph 5 thereof.”
In the same statement, the DFA said the Philippines regrets this Chinese violation of international law days before the successful April 8, 2022 telesummit between President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, where the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to solving issues of mutual concern through peaceful dialogue and exercise restraint in any and all endeavors relating to the South China Sea.
“The Philippines calls on China to comply with its obligations under international law, cease and desist from displaying illegal and irresponsible behavior, avoid further escalating tensions at sea and immediately withdraw all of its vessels from Philippine maritime zones,” it said.
The Chinese vessels were found illegally operating in the waters of Julian Felipe Reef on April 4, 2022.
Julian Felipe Reef is a low tide elevation within the territorial sea of relevant high tide features in the Kalayaan Island Group, including Chigua Reef, over which the Republic of the Philippines has sovereignty.
In March 2021, over 200 Chinese vessels also swarmed the same reef prompting the DFA to lodge a series of diplomatic protests against China.