Amid West Philippine Sea dispute, Manila files more protests vs Beijing

·Contributor
·3 min read
A Philippine Marine gestures at a Chinese Coast Guard vessel which tries to block a Philippine Government vessel AM700 from approaching the Second Thomas Shoal (local name Ayungin Shoal) to resupply and replace fellow marines who were deployed for almost five months Saturday, March 29, 2014 off South China Sea on the West Philippine Sea. (PHOTO: AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
A Philippine Marine gestures at a Chinese Coast Guard vessel which tries to block a Philippine Government vessel AM700 from approaching the Second Thomas Shoal (local name Ayungin Shoal) to resupply and replace fellow marines who were deployed for almost five months Saturday, March 29, 2014 off South China Sea on the West Philippine Sea. (PHOTO: AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

China has continued to militarize the West Philippine Sea despite numerous diplomatic protests already filed by the Philippine government against them, a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official said.

During the Senate committee on foreign relations hearing on Thursday (Sep 8), Foreign Assistant Secretary for Maritime and Ocean Affairs Maria Angela Ponce said that 172 protests have already been filed against China as of August 31 on top of the 388 diplomatic protests previously filed under the Duterte administration.

In response, committee chair Senator Imee Marcos questioned the effectiveness of the said diplomatic protests against China.

“What’s the point of sending hundreds of hundreds of protests aside from, well, annoying both parties? It’s embarrassing when you keep on writing to them, only to be ignored. You lose your dignity and respect, and it doesn’t look good,” Marcos said.

Ponce replied that filing protests was “an assertion of our rights under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Arbitral Award.”

Meanwhile, DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo agreed with Sen. Marcos that filing diplomatic protests might not succeed on their own and needs to be backed with other means such as consultations.

Manalo earlier expressed interest in joint oil and gas exploration with China, which caught the attention of former DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario who said that there is no need to wait for China’s blessing for the Philippines to explore the disputed sea.

“At this time of increasing energy prices besetting the lives of our countrymen, political will is needed to enforce our rights over the oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea, so that our country will be able to benefit from new energy sources,” del Rosario said.

“We hope to see this political will as President Marcos Jr. will need to find new energy sources to support our country in the coming years and he has to face China to do this,” he added.

‘Illegal presence’

China’s coast guard on the disputed sea remains aggressive as it continues to threaten and harass Filipino fishermen in the territory.

Aside from this, China continues its illegal fishing, illegal presence, and unauthorized marine scientific research in the WPS, according to Defense Undersecretary Angelito de Leon in the same hearing.

“The current situation in the West Philippine Sea remains to be worth looking into because there are certain concerns on security. In broad strokes, the swarming incidents continue,” de Leon said.

Despite the arbitral ruling of The Hague in favor of the Philippines in 2016, China has continued to reject the decision, further militarizing the Philippine waters with former President Rodrigo Duterte being more friendly with China during his term.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her on Twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings. The views expressed are her own.

Watch more videos on Yahoo: