Chinese vessels swarm Julian Felipe Reef barely one year after the Philippines’ initial protest. (DFA photo)
(Eagle News) – The Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, again filed a protest over Chinese incursion around Julian Felipe Reef after it noted “the return of over 100 Chinese vessels illegally operating in the waters in and around” the reef recently.
The DFA observed the incident which happened on April 4, 2022, “barely a year after the same swarming incident was protested by the Philippine Government.”
“The lingering unauthorized presence of Chinese fishing and maritime vessels is not only illegal, but is also a source of instability in the region,” the DFA said on the return of over 100 Chinese fishing vessels around Julian Felipe Reef, also known as Whitsun Reef.
Julian Felipe Reef is a low tide elevation within the territorial sea of relevant high tide features in the Kalayaan Island Group, including Chigua Reef, over which the Republic of the Philippines has sovereignty, according to the DFA.
It is at the northeast extreme limit of the Union Banks in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), and is considered the largest reef of the Union Banks.
“The persistent swarming of Chinese vessels is contrary to international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the final and binding 2016 Arbitral Award,” the DFA said.
“It is also a violation of China’s commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, in particular, the exercise of self-restraint pursuant to Paragraph 5 thereof,” it said.
The Philippines said it regrets this latest Chinese violation of international law.
It noted that just days before the incident, both President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping where the two leaders “reaffirmed their commitment to solve issues of mutual concern through peaceful dialogue, and exercise restraint in any and all endeavors relating to the South China Sea.”
“The Philippines calls on China to comply with its obligations under international law, cease and desist from displaying illegal and irresponsible behavior, avoid further escalating tensions at sea and immediately withdraw all of its vessels from Philippine maritime zones,” the DFA statement said.
Last year, in late March, the Philippines also demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Chinese militia ships found swarming around the Julian Felipe Reef.
(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 31, 2021 this handout photo from the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) via the Philippine Communications Operations Office (PCOO) shows Chinese vessels anchored at Whitsun Reef, some 320 kilometres (175 nautical miles) west of Palawan Island in the South China Sea. – The United States on April 7, 2021 warned China against what the Philippines and Taiwan see as increasingly aggressive moves, reminding Beijing of Washington’s obligations to its partners. (Photo by Handout / various sources / AFP) /
At that time, 44 ships where found moored at the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef), and 214 more ships were found in other areas of the Kalayaan Island Group and the West Philippine Sea.
(Eagle News Service)