The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday its position on the Julian Felipe Reef issue remains “unchanged,” ending the confusion where the feature lies – within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“At the moment, the DFA statements on the Julian Felipe Reef issue remain unchanged,” the department said in response to questions from the media.
Last month, the Philippine government, through the DFA, summoned Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian and informed him that the Julian Felipe Reef “lies within the EEZ of the Republic of the Philippines” and that the continuing presence of Chinese vessels in the area is “a source of regional tension.”
In a separate tweet on Tuesday night, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said when it comes to foreign affairs, the DFA always has the last word and “no one else.”
“This is my last warning. When it comes to foreign affairs the Department of Foreign Affairs has the exclusive remit. I don’t come from diplomacy; I come from a life that settled the hash of a lotta people who talked tough and ended up biting dirt. I don’t talk, I deal,” Locsin said.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Tuesday the Philippine government has never abandoned the country’s claim over the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
“We reiterate that the Philippines has claim – and has never abandoned our claim – over Julian Felipe Reef by virtue of a Presidential Decree (PD) issued by former President Ferdinand Marcos saying it is part of the Kalayaan Group of Islands,” Roque said in a statement.
He issued the clarification in reaction to Inquirer.net’s report, which quoted him as saying the Philippines does not own the Julian Felipe Reef.
Roque said he never made a claim that the Julian Felipe reef is “not ours”.
He said the reef, while it is within the Philippines’ 200 nautical miles of EEZ, forms part of the territorial sea generated by two High Tide Elevations (HTEs) currently occupied by China (Mckennan) and Vietnam (Sin Cowe).
The Julian Felipe Reef, also a part of the Kalayaan Island Group, is located 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.
Its distance from the nearest coast of China or Hainan Island is 638 nautical miles.