Last updated on December 16th, 2023 at 01:01 pm
The Philippines has summoned China’s ambassador to Manila and filed a series of diplomatic protests over the “illegal and dangerous” presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels in the South China Sea.
The Philippine foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it had met with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian and demanded that China withdraw all its ships from the disputed areas, especially Whitsun Reef, where more than 200 Chinese fishing boats have been spotted since late March.
The ministry said the reef, which is also claimed by China and Vietnam, lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, and that China’s actions violate its sovereignty and maritime rights.
It also cited the 2016 ruling by an international arbitration tribunal that invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea and affirmed the Philippines’ rights over its waters.
China has rejected the ruling and insisted that the vessels at Whitsun Reef are sheltering from bad weather and conducting normal fishing activities.
The Philippines, however, said the boats are manned by Chinese maritime militia and pose a threat to regional peace and stability.
The foreign ministry said it had lodged daily diplomatic protests since April 5 and would continue to do so until China removed its ships from the Philippine waters.
It also expressed concern over two incidents on Sunday, when Chinese coast guard ships allegedly harassed and collided with Philippine vessels conducting maritime patrols and resupply missions in the Spratly Islands.
The ministry said the Chinese ships’ “provocative, irresponsible and illegal” actions endangered the lives and safety of the Philippine crew and violated international law and norms.
The Philippines has called on China to respect its sovereignty and abide by the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, a non-binding agreement that aims to prevent conflicts and promote cooperation among the claimants.
The US, which has a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines, has also expressed support for its ally and condemned China’s “coercion” and “intimidation” in the South China Sea.
The US State Department said on Monday that it stands with the Philippines in the face of China’s maritime aggression and urged Beijing to cease its “unlawful” actions and adhere to the international rules-based order.