MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday told China to refrain from conducting activities that would disturb regional and international peace and security.
Lorenzana issued the statement in reaction to the justification made by the Chinese Embassy in Manila about the presence of Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
“As a party to the DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties), China should refrain from conducting activities that disturb regional and international peace and security,” he said in a statement.
Lorenzana said: “The continued presence of Chinese maritime militias in the area reveals their intent to further occupy features in the West Philippine Sea.”
“They have done this before at Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc and at Panganiban Reef brazenly violating Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights under international law,” he added.
The Philippines earlier protested the presence of more than 200 vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef and demanded that they be immediately pulled out.
However, the Chinese Embassy denied that the vessels were operated by its maritime militia personnel, and added that it has been a “normal practice” for Chinese fishing vessels to take shelter near the reef, which China calls “Niu’e Jiao,” due to rough sea conditions.
The embassy added that “Niu’e Jiao is part of China’s Nansha Qundao (Spratly Islands)” and that “Chinese fishing vessels have been fishing in its adjacent waters for many years.”
Lorenzana said: “The utter disregard by the Chinese Embassy in Manila of international law especially the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) to which China is a party is appalling.”
“Its nine-dash line claim is without any factual or legal basis. This, together with its so-called historical claim, was flatly and categorically rejected by the arbitral tribunal,” the Defense Chief said.
“The Philippines’ claims stand on solid grounds while China’s do not,” he said. “China should respect Philippine sovereignty over the Kalayaan Islands, and its sovereign rights over its Exclusive Economic Zone as defined by UNCLOS and affirmed by the arbitral award.”
On Saturday, Lorenzana also said he won’t allow himself to be fooled by the Chinese government and again demanded the withdrawal of dozens of Chinese vessels from the reef. He said there were still 44 of them in the area.
“I am no fool. The weather has been good so far, so they have no other reason to stay there. These vessels should be on their way out. Umalis na kayo diyan (Get out of there),” he said.
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