PH fires twin diplomatic protests over Chinese vessels' lingering presence in West PH Sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 23) — The Philippines filed two diplomatic protests against China this week as Chinese vessels continue to linger in the West Philippine Sea, the Foreign Affairs Department said on Friday.

It said the protests were filed on Wednesday against the nonstop deployment, continued presence, and persistent activities of Chinese vessels in the country's maritime zones.

"The presence of these vessels blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction," the DFA said in a statement.

The two diplomatic notes were in addition to the daily protests being filed by the DFA against China for its vessels' continued presence at the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef).

The statement said 160 Chinese fishing vessels and maritime militia were spotted by law enforcement agencies in Philippine waters as of April 20. The DFA said the vessels were observed within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. the Kalayaan Island Group, and in and around the territorial waters of Bajo de Masinloc. Five Chinese Coast Guard vessels with bow numbers 3103, 3301, 3305, 5101, and 5203 were also seen deployed within the vicinities of the Pag-asa Island, Bajo de Masinloc, and Ayungin Shoal.

The DFA demanded that Beijing adhere to international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS and the final and binding 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China's sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

"The continued swarming and threatening presence of the Chinese vessels creates an atmosphere of instability and is a blatant disregard of the commitments by China to promote peace and stability in the region," the agency said.

The Philippine government has filed a number of diplomatic protests this month and issued repeated appeals for China to withdraw its vessels. It also earlier protested Beijing's "illegal" building of artificial islands and structures and aggressive moves within the Philippines' EEZ.