MANILA has rebuffed the assertion of Beijing that the Philippine Navy “trespassed” into Bajo de Masinloc (international name: Scarborough Shoal) last October 30.
“It is China that is intruding into Philippine waters,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a strongly worded statement.
“The Philippines has consistently demanded that Chinese vessels in Bajo de Masinloc leave the area immediately,” it added.
China currently has effective control of Bajo de Masinloc, or Panatag Shoal, located 124 nautical miles from Zambales.
This is the first time the DFA fired such a strongly worded statement on Bajo de Masinloc since President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. took office.
The DFA said the United Nations Arbitration Tribunal has already ruled in 2016 that China’s claim over the entire South China Sea has no legal basis. Thus, China cannot claim the shoal to be part of its territory.
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Bajo de Masinloc forms part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The DFA also asserted that the shoal is an “integral part of the Philippine territory over which the Philippines has sovereignty and jurisdiction.”
The Southern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army had earlier complained that the Philippine corvette BRP Conrado Yap (PS39) “trespassed” near the shoal on October 30.
DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said China “has no legal basis” in asserting such claims and “only serves to raise tensions in the West Philippine Sea.”
“The Philippines’ conduct of maritime patrols in the waters around Bajo de Masinloc is a legitimate and routine act of a sovereign country in its territory and territorial sea and is part of the Philippines’ administrative responsibility. There is no obligation for the Philippines as the sovereign state to seek the approval of another when navigating its own territorial sea,” the DFA official said.
The DFA insisted that the presence of Chinese Navy, Coast Guard and militia in Bajo De Masinloc and their “apparent exercise of maritime law enforcement powers” were actually “violations of international law, particularly UNCLOS and the Arbitral Award.”
Chinese activities “infringes upon the Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction” with their alleged harassment of Philippine naval and Coast Guard vessels and intimidation of Filipino fisherfolk.
Sought for comment, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said they noted the request and would revert when appropriate.