A total of 153 out of the 211 notes verbales filed over Chinese actions in the South China Sea since the start of the Duterte administration have been filed in 2021 alone, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday.
The agency made the disclosure a day after it posted on Twitter a statement protesting China’s “provocative acts” against Philippine authorities patrolling the country’s waters.
“The latest protest was issued on September 30, so yes the incidents in August are covered, but these types of warnings are SOP (standard operating procedure) by the Chinese just as our Coast Guards also issue warnings. The tweet was issued (October 20) upon instructions,” DFA Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez told reporters.
The official said the Chinese side has so far responded to 151 notes verbales out of the number the DFA sent in 2021.
One of the earliest protests was against the swarming of over a hundred Chinese fishing vessels near the Julian Felipe Reef, an act that also elicited reactions from several countries, including the United States, Japan and Australia.
Julian Felipe Reef is part of the Kalayaan Island Group and lies in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.
In a forum on Thursday, Philippine Association for Chinese Studies (PACS) president Rommel Banlaoi said the country’s national interest in the West Philippine Sea is undoubtedly to see China vacating all features that are within its maritime zones.
However, he said the public needs to understand that in the South China Sea, especially in the Spratlys, there are two kinds of conflicts — one on the territory or who owns the land features and another on the maritime aspect or who has the right to exploit the resources there.
“When it comes to territorial issues, of course, nations go to war to protect their territory and China will not negotiate for a surrender of that territory. If we use that kind of argument then nations will really go to war to defend their territory,” he said.
Banlaoi believes that the Philippines, China and other claimants could sit down and talk about the maritime issue in the meantime.
“I think China when it comes to maritime jurisdictional issue is willing to negotiate with neighbors, willing to cooperate with neighbors, and willing to promote joint development with neighbors,” he said.
“But of course our national interest is to have our exclusive right to develop those resources but under the current realities where there are claimants, I think the only pragmatic way to do that is to negotiate,” he added.