PH summons Chinese envoy over ‘lingering presence’ of ships in WPS

MANILA on Monday relayed to Beijing its displeasure over the “illegal lingering presence” of Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) summoned Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian to relay the Philippine government’s sentiment over China’s failure to withdraw all of its maritime assets in the WPS.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Tuesday said on Twitter, “There are a little over a dozen left. Come, come, time to go”.

Locsin said that the National Task Force on the WPS has informed him that “only 9 ships [were] left” from the 220 vessels that moored in the reef in the early part of March apparently to seek cover from bad weather.

The DFA reiterated the Philippines’ firm demand that China should “ensure the immediate departure of all its vessels from the area and other maritime zones of the Philippines.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the DFA said acting Undersecretary Elizabeth Buensuceso has informed Xilian that Julian Felipe Reef “lies within the exclusive economic zone” of the Philippines.

It is located 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza town in Palawan and 638.229 nautical miles from Hainan Island in China.

“The continuing presence of Chinese vessels around the reef is a source of regional tension,” Buensuceso supposedly told Xilian.

She stressed that the July 12, 2016 Award in the South China Sea arbitration ruled that claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction that exceed the geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements under UNCLOS (United Nations Convention of the Law of the Seas) “are without lawful effect”.

Both sides affirmed the use of peaceful settlement of disputes in addressing their differences on the overlapping claims in South China Sea and WPS.

Acting DFA spokesperson Ivy Banzon Abalos, in a text message, said it was the first time for Xilian to be summoned.

Asked what was Xilian’s response about Manila’s demand for the Chinese vessels to leave the area immediately, Banzon said, “Both sides agreed to lower the tensions and handle the issue diplomatically. We have yet to see complete removal of the ships”.

On the untoward statements of the Chinese embassy spokesman on Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, “the Chinese side was reminded of proper decorum and manners in the conduct of their duties as guests of the Philippines,” the DFA added.

The embassy described as “unprofessional” Lorenzana’s April 3 statement demanding Chinese vessels to leave Julian Felipe Reef.