PH files diplomatic protest vs. China

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 20) – The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest to China over the Chinese Coast Guard's illegal confiscation of fish aggregating devices of Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc in May.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed the country’s diplomatic protest in a statement released on Thursday evening.

“The Philippines also resolutely objected to China’s continuing illicit issuances of radio challenges Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea,” the DFA added in its statement.

The DFA did not elaborate the incident involving Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal, in May this year.

The Bajo de Masinloc has been the center of the maritime dispute between Manila and Beijing in the West Philippine Sea that started in April 2012, when the Philippine Navy apprehended eight mainland Chinese fishing vessels who are illegally fishing in the country’s territorial waters.

Since the incident, the Chinese Coast Guard remained a steady presence in Bajo de Masinloc despite the shoal being located in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled in 2016 in favor of the Philippines, saying there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights over most of the West Philippine Sea using their “nine-dash line” claim. The ruling covered Bajo de Masinloc as part of the Philippine territorial waters.

China has repeatedly refused to recognize the PCA ruling and continued to reclaim islands in the disputed areas for military and research purposes.

Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s soft stance on China in the country’s claim in the West Philippine Sea, some incidents occurred in the disputed waters.

The most famous of which was when a Chinese boat hit F/B Gem-Ver in Recto Bank in June 2019, forcing the 22 Filipino fishermen to float in the open sea for hours before they were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.

In March, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. admitted there are more than 130 Chinese fishing vessels lingering around Pag-Asa Island in Palawan.

In the fourth anniversary of the historic PCA ruling last July, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin Jr. called on China to adhere to the ruling, saying the arbitration award is “non-negotiable.”