By ROGER M. BALANZA
“The utter disregard by the Chinese embassy in Manila of international law especially the UNCLOS to which China is a party is appalling. Its 9-dash line claim is without any factual or legal basis. This, together with its so-called historical claim, was flatly and categorically rejected by the arbitral tribunal.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana went ballistic against the Chinese embassy in Manila on Sunday, April 4, adding fire to an already heated verbal exchanges between the Philippine official and China’s man in Manila.
Lorenzana, earlier, scored China for violating the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), by continuing to claim the West Philippine Sea despite a 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling.
“China is committed to safeguarding peace and stability in the waters and we hope that authorities concerned would make constructive efforts and avoid any unprofessional remarks which may further fan irrational emotions,” said the spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in a statement Saturday night, April 3, in response to Lorenzana’s statement that Chinese militia vessels should leave the Julian Felipe Reef.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had filed a diplomatic protest over the China militia vessels moored at the reef.
The Philippine military says that 44 of them were still moored at the reef last week and nearly 200 more scattered around other reefs and Pag-asa (Thitu), the biggest island occupied by Filipinos within the country’s 370-kilometer EEZ.
“The continued presence of Chinese maritime militias in the area reveals their intent to further occupy features in the West Philippine Sea,” Lorenzana said.
The Chinese embassy denounced as ‘unprofessional’ Lorenzana’s statement that China’s ships should move out of Julian Felipe Reef.
“The utter disregard by the Chinese embassy in Manila of international law especially the UNCLOS to which China is a party is appalling. Its 9-dash line claim is without any factual or legal basis. This, together with its so-called historical claim, was flatly and categorically rejected by the arbitral tribunal,” said Lorenzana in a statement directed at the Chinese embassy in Manila.
“The Chinese Embassy has taken note of the perplexing statement by Philippine Defense Secretary on Chinese fishing vessels around Niu’e Jiao in the South China Sea,” the Chinese embassy last on Saturday said in a statement, calling the reef by its Chinese name.
The embassy said the reef was part of China’s Nansha Islands and a “traditional fishing ground” for the Chinese “for many years.” Nansha is what China calls the Spratlys archipelago, which is composed of reefs, atolls and islets that straddle the South China Sea.
“It is completely normal for Chinese fishing vessels to fish in the waters and take shelter near the reef during rough sea conditions,” the embassy said.
“Nobody has the right to make wanton remarks on such activities,” the embassy said in apparent reference to Lorenzana.
The embassy said China is “committed in safeguarding peace and stability in the waters.”
It wished that Philippine officials “would make constructive efforts and avoid any unprofessional remarks which may further fan irrational emotions.”