For a few years now, we’ve been regularly hearing and reading news about the issue between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China regarding the ownership of the West Philippine Sea (WPS). Previously called the South China Sea, WPS has been a disputed territory for the last decade, and has already become an international concern.
Just recently, another report has made the situation more concerning. In the last week of March, over 200 Chinese ships and vessels were found lurking in the WPS — particularly the Julian Felipe Reef, and eventually to the other parts of the Kalayaan Group of Islands.
The issue has become a grave concern that Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. was prompted to order the filing of a new diplomatic protest against China. (Read: Timeline: Duterte’s Stand on the West Philippine Sea Over the Years)
“Changing my policy of acting only on NTF (National Task Force) requests. @DFAPHL FIRE A DIPLOMATIC PROTEST NOW,” Locsin’s tweet said.
According to Locsin, the DFA will file not just one protest against China, but a daily diplomatic protest until the very last Chinese ship leaves WPS. “Every day ’til the last one’s gone like it should be by now if it is really fishing,” he tweeted.
It seemed to have worked for a few days, as the foreign affairs secretary announced that there were only nine ships left as of April 13. But this morning, April 14, the secretary said that the ships are back, much to his dismay.
Retired Justice Antonio Carpio, a staunch advocate for WPS, said that the ships might be a “prelude to occupying reefs in the West Philippine Sea.” (Read: Retired Justice Antonio Carpio’s West PH Sea Lecture Now Available Online)
Because of the presence of the Chinese vessels in Philippine waters, the DFA has already summoned the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian to discuss the issue.
“The continuing presence of Chinese vessels around the reef is a source of regional tension,” the DFA said in a statement. (Read: Why Should the President’s Health Status Be Publicly Disclosed?)
According to the foreign affairs department, Undersecretary Elizabeth Buensuceso reiterated to the Ambassador that the Julian Felipe Reef is part of the Philippines’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This meant that the resources which can be found on, in, and under it are the Philippines’s property.
The DFA also demanded that the ships and vessels be withdrawn immediately from the reef.