MANILA The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday called as "illegal" the presence of Chinese vessels swarming near and around the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
"The Pag-asa Islands are part of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), which is an integral part of the Philippines over which it has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction," the DFA said in a statement sent to the media Thursday afternoon.
"Accordingly, the presence of Chinese vessels near and around Pag-asa and other maritime features in the KIG is illegal," it added.
Such actions are a "clear violation of Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction," as defined under international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the DFA statement read.
Ahead of the release of the statement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Thursday noted that such actions when not repudiated by the country concerned, are deemed to have been adopted by it.
"When a country lets its countrymen swarm into foreign territory and does nothing to drive them out, it is deemed to have endorsed and in effect adopted that aggressive act against a foreign country," he said on his official Twitter account.
The Philippine government has observed that the Chinese vessels have been present in large numbers for sustained and recurring periods.
Commonly referred to as swarming tactics, the DFA said these raise questions about their intent, as well as concerns over their role in support of coercive objectives.
In its statement, the DFA asserted that the presence of Chinese vessels within the KIG, "whether military, fishing or other vessels," will continue to be the subject of appropriate action by the Philippines.
Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana on Thursday confirmed that the country raised this issue during the two nations' fourth meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism.
"It was discussed during the Philippine-China bilateral talks on the South China Sea held in Manila on April 2 to 3," he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a text message. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency