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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

DFA releases "strongest" statement on Julian Felipe Reef

Word “war” escalates as DFA deplores Chinese Embassy’s response to Defense Secretary’s statement on presence of maritime militia in WPS

MANILA – A couple of days after Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. met with his Chinese counterpart, State Counselor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Fujian Province, the Department of Foreign Affairs released a strongly-worded statement deploring the assertion attributed to the Chinese Embassy Spokesperson last April 3,2021.

It will be recalled Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana called on the Chinese vessels to leave the waters in the area and vicinity of Julian Felipe Reef.

“The Embassy statement contained blatant falsehoods such as claims of adverse weather conditions when there were not and the supposed non-existence of maritime militia vessels in the area. The statement also attempted to promote the clearly false narrative of China’s expansive and illegitimate claims in the West Philippine Sea,” the two-paged statement revealed.

The DFA reiterated Julian Felipe Reef is part of the Kalayaan Island Group which lies in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines. It said the island group is 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza town in Palawan and 638.229 nautical miles from Hainan Island.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said they reject China’s assertion that Julian Felipe Reef and its waters are their “traditional fishing grounds” because tradition yields to law whether or not it is regarded as traditional fishing.

“The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – to which both the Republic of the Philippines and China are parties – and the final and binding July 12, 2016 Award in the South China Sea Arbitration are clearly the only norm applicable to this situation,” the DFA statement added.

The DFA stood its ground that the 12 July 2016 Award in the South China Sea Arbitration settled the issue of historic rights and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea as the Tribunal “ruled that claims to historic rights, and other sovereign rights or jurisdiction that exceed the geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements under UNCLOS, are without lawful effect.”

Referring to the decision, the DFA said the ruling disclosed that UNCLOS “superseded any historic rights, or sovereign rights or jurisdiction, in excess of the limits imposed therein.”

The DFA reiterated that the demand of the Secretary of National Defense that China immediately withdraw its fishing vessels and maritime assets in the area and vicinity of Julian Felipe Reef and the Philippines’ maritime zones.

“For every day of delay, the Republic of the Philippines will lodge a diplomatic protest,” the DFA statement added because it asserted the continued deployment, lingering presence and activities of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea and China’s tolerance thereof “blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.”

The DFA further said these events are contrary to China’s commitments under international law and the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea as they demonstrate lack of good faith in the continuing negotiations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea between the ten-nation ASEAN and China.

“Moreover, the Department of Foreign Affairs strongly denounces the Embassy’s attempt to impugn the Secretary of National Defense – a Cabinet Official of the Republic of the Philippines – by calling his statement ‘unprofessional’. Chinese Embassy officials are reminded that they are guests of the Philippine Government, and as guests must at all times observe protocol and accord respect to Philippine Government officials,” the statement concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)

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