Philippines says its ships blocked by China around disputed Whitsun reef

Daniel Fowler
May 4, 2021

His tweet continued, "What are you doing to our friendship? You". His comments came as Manila slammed the "illegal" presence of hundreds of Chinese boats inside the Philippines 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

The department said it has lodged a diplomatic protest over the Chinese vessels' actions towards the Southeast Asian country's coastguard during patrols and training exercises near the reef last month.

On Sunday, the Philippines vowed to continue maritime exercises in its South China Sea EEZ in response to a Chinese demand that it stop actions it said could escalate disputes. "Not us. We're trying", he replied to a news article on the diplomatic protests.

This coral reef is located 230 kilometers from Luzon, the main island of the Philippines.

The recent dispute between Manila and Beijing over these resource-rich waters, which China claims nearly entirely, erupted in March, after hundreds of Chinese ships were spotted inside the Philippines' special economic zone.

China has refused repeated calls from the Philippines to withdraw the boats, and tensions have intensified as Manila steps up maritime patrols in the area.

The Philippines' top diplomat Teodoro Locsin unambiguously told Beijing where to go on Monday, as the government insisted Chinese vessels were still illegally lingering in the disputed South China Sea.

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An arbitration tribunal in The Hague in 2016 ruled China's claims in the South China Sea "inconsistent" with worldwide law.

He said the 2016 landmark ruling of the arbitral tribunal in The Hague is clear. According to Philippine officials, the Chinese vessels "are manned by militia". "The Philippines' conduct of maritime patrols and training exercises in these areas is a legitimate and routine act of a sovereign country in its territory and territorial waters and is part of the Philippines' administrative responsibility", DFA said.

The note verbale said it rejects the statement of the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, who said that China enjoys sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc, or Panatag Shoal, the traditional fishing grounds of Filipino fishermen from Zambales.

Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal, is a triangle-shaped chain of reefs in the South China Sea that lies around 120 nautical miles from the nearest Philippine coast and 470 nautical miles from the nearest coast of China.

"Our statements are stronger too because of the more brazen nature of the activities, the number, frequency and proximity of intrusions", said Marie Yvette Banzon-Abalos, executive director for strategic communications at the Foreign Ministry.

While the Philippine leader still considers China "a good friend", he said last week: 'There are things that are not really subject to a compromise'.

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