PH counters China: No promise made abandoning rights over WPS, Ayungin

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

March 6, 2024, 8:07 pm Updated on March 6, 2024, 8:37 pm

<p class="p1">DFA Spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza<em> (File photo)</em></p>

DFA Spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza (File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday rejected China’s claims that a promise was made on Ayungin Shoal or other parts of the West Philippine Sea, saying Beijing and Manila have never entered into any agreement that would abandon the latter’s rights over the waters.

On Tuesday, the Chinese Embassy defended the Chinese Coast Guard’s (CCG) dangerous maneuvers and use of water cannons against a Filipino resupply mission that resulted in four injured Filipino service members.

It insisted that Beijing has sovereignty over the Spratlys and accused Manila of breaking “commitments to China” in an apparent reference to a January bilateral meeting to de-escalate tension in the area.

DFA Spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza countered this, noting Manila's efforts to discuss the issue diplomatically to implement both President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and President Xi Jinping’s instructions to reduce the tensions.

“China, however, has made references to supposed agreements or arrangements out of these discussions. The Philippines has not entered into any agreement abandoning its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and continental shelf, including in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal,” she said in a press briefing.

“There's also no temporary special arrangement existing between the Philippines and China with regard to Ayungin Shoal.”

READ: PH orders Chinese vessels to leave Ayungin ‘immediately’ 

Daza reiterated that the Filipino resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal are all in line with both domestic and international laws as opposed to China’s entry into another country's EEZ.

“(T)hey say that, of course, they own the entire area, that the fishing activities by Chinese fishing boats, what they're doing in terms of regulation and enforcement are legitimate and lawful and beyond reproach,” she said.

“But we’re saying that (it) would be legitimate if they were in their EEZ but they're not in their EEZ – there’s a big distance away from their EEZ. They're actually in our EEZ and because of that, it’s us who will determine what we'll do in our EEZ, is it not?”

An EEZ extends up to 200 nautical miles (NM) from a coastal state’s shore, the very same state that has jurisdiction over resources in that stretch of water.

Ayungin Shoal, which is situated in the West Philippines Sea, is only 106.3 NM from Palawan and at least 617.39 NM from the Chinese mainland – clearly beyond the 200 NM maximum maritime entitlement for an EEZ under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Daza said the Philippine government would continue to protect and uphold the country’s legal maritime entitlements in the West Philippine Sea.

“We continue to call on China to cease and desist from undertaking actions that violate Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea, and undermine the mutual trust and confidence that should underpin bilateral relations,” she said.

On top of summoning Chinese Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Zhou Zhiyong to protest Beijing’s latest actions off Ayungin Shoal, Daza confirmed that the Philippine Embassy in Beijing has “demarched their counterparts” in the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

This year alone, the Philippines’ diplomatic protests lodged against Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea have reached 10. (PNA)