PH files diplomatic protest over incident near Ayungin Shoal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 14) — The country has filed a diplomatic protest against China after a Chinese vessel pointed a military-grade laser, called dazzler, at a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the protest was sent to the Chinese embassy on Tuesday condemning the "shadowing, harassment, dangerous maneuvers, directing of military-grade laser, and illegal radio challenges by CCG vessel 5205 against PCG vessel BRP Malapascua on 6 February 2023."

READ: Chinese vessel blocks, aims laser at Philippine Coast Guard near Ayungin Shoal

In the statement, the DFA said the actions by the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) was a threat to sovereignty and security.

"The Philippines has the prerogative to conduct legitimate activities within its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. China does not have law enforcement rights or powers in and around Ayungin Shoal or any part of the Philippine EEZ (exclusive economic zone)," said DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza.

The DFA added the incident was disappointing as it came after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s visit to China where he and President Xi Jinping agreed to resolve maritime differences through diplomacy.

BRP Malapascua was to deliver food and supplies to troops stationed in Ayungin Shoal when they were blocked by the Chinese vessel, causing it to alter course.

The PCG said it was a "blatant disregard for, and a clear violation of, Philippine sovereign rights in this part of the West Philippine Sea."

In a separate briefing on Tuesday, Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG adviser of the Commandant for Maritime Security, said the PCG did not withdraw and completed the delivery of food and supplies to troops stationed in Ayungin Shoal, a military outpost in the form of a worn-down, decommissioned ship, the BRP Sierra Madre.

Tarriela said the PCG also went towards Lawak Island to "join the BRP Teresa Magbanua in providing maritime patrol."

He recalled a similar incident in June 2022, where the PCG vessel BRP Habagat was exposed to a blue laser for almost 20 minutes. The crew experienced temporary blindness and itchiness on their skin.

Aside from the aggressive maneuvers of Chinese vessels, Tarriella noted that China also has over 150 maritime militia in some areas in the WPS.

China, meanwhile, has accused the country of intruding into its waters, claiming that the Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is part of China's Nansha Islands.

In a statement on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the PCG went into the area without permission, "in accordance with China's domestic law and international law."

Wang said the CCG only "upheld China's sovereignty and maritime order," calling the act "professional and restrained."

"We hope the Philippine side will respect China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea and avoid taking any actions that may exacerbate disputes and complicate the situation," he added.

To date, the Philippines has filed 203 note verbales against China: eight as of this year alone, and 195 in 2022.

RELATED: AFP tells China to 'restrain its forces' following laser incident in Ayungin Shoal

China has not given a response to the latest diplomatic protest.

This is a developing story.