MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian on Monday to express "utmost displeasure" over the presence of Chinese vessels off the Julian Felipe Reef.
"[T]he DFA reiterated the firm demand of the Philippines that China ensures the immediate departure of all its vessels from the area of Julian Felipe Reef and other maritime zones of the Philippines," it said in a statement on Tuesday.
DFA Acting Undersecretary Elizabeth Buensuceso told Huang that Julian Felipe Reef lies within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and that the Chinese vessels around the feature are a "source of regional tension."
The official also said the July 2016 Award in the South China Sea Arbitration ruled that claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction that exceed the geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements under UNCLOS, are without lawful effect.
On the previous untoward statements of the Chinese embassy spokesperson on Defense Secretary Lorenzana, Buensuceso reminded the Chinese side of proper decorum and manners in the conduct of their duties as guests of the Philippines.
"Both sides affirmed the use of peaceful settlement of disputes in addressing their differences on the South China Sea/West Philippines issue," the DFA said.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said there are still nine Chinese ships left in the area.
'Tradition yields to law'
The Chinese side has insisted that the Julian Felipe Reef or what it calls Niu'e Reef is part of its territory, adding the reef and its adjacent waters are traditional fishing grounds for Chinese fishermen.
In previous Chinese Foreign Ministry statements, it also said China has "historical rights in the South China Sea."
In a separate tweet, Locsin said tradition yields to law and that the law on the matter is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award.
"There are a little over a dozen left. Come, come, time to go. As I said, while it may well be traditional fishing grounds, tradition yields to law and the law on the matter are UNCLOS and The Arbitral Award and the common rules of statutory construction," he said.
Locsin also said these incursions achieve nothing in law as fishing is not an act of possession nor a claim of ownership.
"Also that it is a goddamned distraction from the beneficial potential of the good relations China and the Philippines have built under PRRD (President Rodrigo Duterte) and that these incursions achieve nothing in law because, e.g., fishing is not an act of possession nor a claim of ownership; fishing is just fishing and even if you take your damned time fishing in the same spot it is still only what you claim it is—fishing," he said.
"Our partnership has so much potential not just for our mutual but even more for the benefit of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). What a waste of great opportunities for good. Let’s give it a rest," he added. (PNA)