The Chinese have landed!
The Philippine government has last week reportedly filed a diplomatic protest in Beijing regarding the unauthorized presence in the South China Sea of 220 “fishing vessels” that are well inside the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.
The protest lodged by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was based on a report by the Philippine Coast Guard which spotted the Chinese vessels, said to be manned by maritime militia personnel, in stationary “line formation” near the Julian Felipe Reef which is 175 nautical miles from Palawan.
But it appears that the vessels being called out by the DFA won’t be going away anytime soon as China is insisting the Julian Reef is part of its maritime territory per the controversial “nine-dash line” map which delineates its expansive claims in the SCS.
Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana said the Chinese vessels were obviously encroaching on Philippine territorial waters and demanded their immediate withdrawal as they were violating the country’s maritime rights.
“We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating out maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory,” he said.
Foreign Sec. Teodoro Locsin stressed that the protest was actually recommended by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. who headed the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea.
Various legislators likened the presence of the huge number of Chinese ships off Palawan tantamount to a “show of force bordering on military aggression” intended to intimidate the Philippines with regard to the so-called “nine-dash line” map wherein superpower China lays claim to around 90 percent of the strategic South China Sea.
The United States had accused China of using its fishing fleets to “peacefully” assert its maritime claims in the South China Sea.
Aside from the Philippines, countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan are contesting China’s sweeping territorial claims, but this expected to go far as Beijing refuses to recognize the authority of the United Nations to resolve such disputes.