THE Philippine government has filed a diplomatic protest against China over the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels near Manila-occupied Pag-asa Island in the South China Sea, Malacañang said yesterday.
Citing information from the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Department of Foreign Affairs protested the presence of 275 Chinese vessels that were spotted by the military from January to March this year.
The Palace spokesman, however, could not say when the protest was filed.
Panelo also described as “exaggerated” a media report that over 600 Chinese vessels have been circling around Pag-asa Island, saying the vessels were stationary.
He said he will raise the issue of Chinese vessels with China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua who will be paying a courtesy call on Panelo in Malacañang on Monday afternoon.
The United Nations arbitral tribunal in 2016 handed a sweeping victory for the Philippines on the lawsuit it filed against China over their South China Sea disputes during the presidency of Benigno Aquino III. The tribunal invalidated Beijing’s historical claims to nearly the entire South China Sea.
China does not recognize the ruling and maintained sovereignty and ownership over the resource-rich waters.
Instead of pressuring China to immediately comply with the landmark arbitration ruling, Duterte decided to set aside the decision but promised to raise it with China at a still-unspecified time during his presidency.