Senate panel asked to review DFA's '50-100 diplomatic protests' vs China

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 11) — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday asked the Senate to look into the Duterte administration's response to "Chinese incursions" in the South China Sea.

Hontiveros filed Resolution No. 786, directing the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to "conduct a foreign policy audit to scrutinize and review the diplomatic protests lodged by the Department of Foreign Affairs."

This follows the statement of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in a House hearing on May 30 that the government has filed "several dozens" of diplomatic protest over the past two years.

"Maybe 50, 100. I have to count it," Cayetano said, stressing that the government is not giving up its claims in contested waters west of the country.

READ: Duterte gov't filed 'dozens' of protests vs. China's activities in South China Sea, officials say

Hontiveros challenged Cayetano to bare the diplomatic protests against China.

"The people have the right to be informed. Present proof, or they didn't happen," Hontiveros said.

She added the only instance the public was made aware of a diplomatic protest was when the DFA issued a note verbale to protest China's installation of missile systems in the Spratly Islands and the harassment of Philippine Navy boats by their Chinese counterparts on May 11.

Cayetano, however, earlier said the government cannot divulge the contents of all diplomatic negotiations to protect national interest.

The DFA has repeatedly said it will take diplomatic action whenever necessary, including the filing of a diplomatic protest against China.

China has refused to recognize the July 2016 ruling of an international tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands that found Beijing's expansive historical claims in the South China Sea were without any legal basis. The tribunal also ruled as illegal Chinese activities in areas of the South China Sea that lie within the Philippines' 200-mile exclusive economic zone.  Six regional governments have overlapping claims in the contested territory - the  Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said the country cannot afford to go to war against China, but has promised to bring up the arbitral ruling with the East Asian giant during his term.