News

PHL files new protest vs China ‘aggression’

as US, EU, more countries air concern

By Jennifer T. Santos

PASAY CITY — The Department of Foreign Affairs has filed another diplomatic protest against China’s aggressive acts in the West Philippine Sea after another encounter in Ayungin Shoal where Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) attacked a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre resulting to injuries to Filipinos, damages and seizure of guns and other navigational materials.

Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo said on the sidelines of the East-West Center’s International Media Conference that “we have already sent a note verbale” to Beijing amid grave concern aired by the European Union, the G 7 and other allies of the Philippines.

According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the CCG personnel were armed with knives and then proceeded to seize the rifles of the PCG crew, which the AFP called “piracy.”

The DFA earlier denounced the “illegal and aggressive actions” of the Chinese near the Ayungin Shoal on June 17, which severely injured a Philippine Navy personnel and damaged Filipino vessels.

In a statement, the DFA expressed “grave concern” over the incident that happened during a humanitarian mission to the BRP Sierra Madre.

“We expect China to act sincerely and responsibly, and refrain from behavior that puts to risk the safety of personnel and vessels,” the DFA said.

The DFA statement also reiterated the call for China to adhere to international law, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award.

The same also told China to respect the Philippines’ sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in its own waters.

Philippine business groups, meanwhile,  deplored the harassment of the country’s military, in comments that come after a recent clash between navy personnel and the Chinese coast guard in the disputed South China Sea.

“We appeal for unity towards a non-violent resolution that respects our rights as a peace-loving nation,” the business groups said in a rare joint statement, which did not mention China by name.

The group, composed of 17 business organisations including the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines, also urged the government to “pursue with utmost urgency” measures to transform the country’s military and coastguard into a modern self-reliant force.

Amid the aggression by China, the DFA is working to convene a dialogue with China in the hopes of creating some “confidence-building measures” after the June 17 incident involving the Chinese Coast Guard disrupting a Philippine resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal that severely injured one Filipino soldier.

In a Senate hearing , DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo said the agency, in consultation with the National Maritime Council, agreed on the “primacy of dialogue and diplomacy” even in the face of these serious incidents.

“Though, of course, I admit it’s also a challenge. Nevertheless, we will pursue the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international laws, specifically the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Arbitral Award,” he said.

“We have been working hard to bring back China to the table to talk with us to resolve differences on these issues,” he added.

The Philippines and China have an existing mechanism for dialogue on issues surrounding the South China Sea called the bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM).

Last week, Manalo said a working group discussion was convened in preparation for what is being slated as the 9th BCM meeting.

The DFA is hoping to convene the meeting by early July, Manalo said.

The regular meeting, should it proceed, would most likely cover the June 17 incident but Manalo also hopes to see whether the two states can arrive “at some kind of confidence-building measures”.

Manalo said these “confidence-building measures” could hopefully create a basis for “more serious discussions” to see how the two states can address issues in the area.

On top of bilaterally engaging with China, Manalo said the Philippines is working closely with other international partners and on the multilateral front to promote a rules-based order in the region.

“So, we will continue to pursue these efforts, and also let me just assure the committee and the Filipino people that while we are seeking the approach for a peaceful resolution through international law and diplomacy, of course, we are not blind to the incidents which are happening,” he said.

“We will ensure that whatever confidence-building measures we achieve, they will be not at the expense of the promotion of our sovereignty, sovereign rights as well as our rights and jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

On top of denouncing China’s actions in a public statement, Manalo confirmed that the DFA has reached out to the Chinese Foreign Ministry and its embassy in the Philippines to “sternly communicate” Manila’s position on the incident.

“We sternly communicated to our counterparts that it was really incomprehensible how the delivery of basic necessities to our troops on the [BRP] Sierra Madre could be considered a provocation that would justify an increased level of Chinese actions and so, therefore, we believe their actions only intensified and escalated tensions and certainly, something we should be concerned about,” he said.

The Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP) also rallied behind President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s firm assertion of Manila’s “sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction” in the WPS, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

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