PH to continue West PH Sea patrols, diplomatic protests vs. China

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 28) — China is in no place to ask the Philippines to stop its drills in the West Philippine Sea, Filipino officials said Wednesday, adding Manila will continue holding maritime patrols and filing diplomatic protests against Beijing.

In a statement, the Department of National Defense stood firm in its assertion that it is the East Asian giant encroaching on Philippine territory.

"China has no business telling the Philippines what we can and cannot do within our own waters," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said.

"We will continue to do what is necessary to protect our sovereign rights," he added, as he cited the 2016 arbitral ruling which rejected China's sweeping claims over territories falling within its so-called nine-dash line.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. also maintained the Philippines has the right to conduct maritime exercises in its exclusive economic zone within the contested South China Sea.

"They have their claims, we have our claims, and so it is a disputed area. But we have to enforce, because we have UNCLOS (United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea) supporting us," Esperon told CNN Philippines.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin asked Manila not to "escalate disputes" by holding drills in the West Philippine Sea. This is despite the arbitral award which Beijing has repeatedly ignored.

READ: China urges PH: Respect our sovereignty and rights, stop drills in South China Sea

Amid China's insistence, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. directed his department on Wednesday to lodge another diplomatic protest. Since last month, the Philippines has filed several protests against China for its refusal to withdraw its vessels from Philippine waters.

"They can say what they want from the Chinese mainland; we continue to assert from our waters by right of international law what we won in The Hague," Locsin said in a tweet. "But we must not fail to protest. @DFAPHL have we fired off a diplomatic protest? Do it now."

Locsin on April 7 said they will file a protest for each day the Chinese ships refuse to leave the area.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros said China must be "hallucinating" to make such a statement. She added the country should stop "contorting facts to suit her baseless claims."

"In truth, it is China that has been harassing our fisherfolk, reclaiming land in territories she does not own, and even using war vessels to chase off Filipino civilians," she said. "China can't even respect freedom of navigation on the high seas, and now she wants respect for her unfounded nine-dash line?"

House Deputy Speaker Rep. Rufus Rodriguez also called Beijing's call "ridiculous" and demanded that they leave the West Philippine Sea immediately.