China hits back at PH after diplomatic protest: Stop illegal provocations

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 22) — China is accusing the Philippines of “illegal provocations” in contested waters in a strong public statement on a diplomatic protest filed by Manila.

The Department of Foreign Affairs opposed China’s illicit issuance of radio challenges at aircraft conducting regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea – an area of the South China Sea that Manila claims. It was one of two issues the Philippines raised in its diplomatic action announced on Thursday.

When asked about it during a regular media briefing on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the Philippines “infringes on China's sovereignty and security” by sending military aircraft to patrol the Spratlys and reefs claimed by Beijing.

“China urges the Philippine side to immediately stop illegal provocations,” Zhao said.

He also defended the Chinese Coast Guard’s confiscation of Filipino fishermen’s fish aggregating devices or payaos in Scarborough, a shoal west of Zambales which is being claimed by both Manila and Beijing. The Philippines calls it Bajo de Masinloc but lost control over it following a controversial standoff with China in 2012.

“It is beyond reproach for China Coast Guard to conduct law enforcement in Huangyan Dao waters as it is a lawful practice,” Zhao said, referring to Scarborough.

In April, Manila also lodged diplomatic protests over Beijing’s declaration of two new districts in what it calls Sansha City, which covered areas in the West Philippine Sea, and the pointing of a radar gun at the Philippine Navy's BRP Conrado Yap.

It's not clear if there has been any response from the Chinese government, but it has so far made no public statement on the issue.

China insists on owning almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting a Hague tribunal’s ruling that invalidated its sweeping claim. The landmark decision recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights in areas within its exclusive economic zone that China claims.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has nurtured close ties with China, agreed to set aside the ruling to pursue cordial relations with the East Asian giant.

In a media briefing on Friday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the administration is confident that the latest diplomatic protest will not have any impact on the country's relations with Beijing, including China’s vow to give priority to the Philippines once it develops a COVID-19 vaccine.