Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Saturday sought the immediate departure of the remaining Chinese ships from the Juan Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea, saying they have no reason to stay there.
Lorenzana said the continued encroachment demands a serious explanation from the Chinese envoy to the Philippines.
“The Chinese Ambassador has a lot of explaining to do. As of our latest maritime and aerial surveillance, there are still 44 Chinese vessels that are in Julian Felipe Reef,” he said.
He said he is not a fool since the weather has been good so far hence, the ships have no other reason to stay there.
“These vessels should be on their way out. Umalis na kayo diyan (Leave now),” he said in a statement.
The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea earlier expressed concern over a Philippine Coast Guard report that about 220 Chinese fishing vessels, believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, were sighted in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef on March 7.
The reef is located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.
“We have already lodged our diplomatic protest stating unequivocally our stand on the issue. We, again, reiterate our demand for the Chinese to leave our sovereign territories and abide by international law,” Lorenzana said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, backed the DND’s demand for the remaining Chinese ships’ withdrawal from the Julian Felipe Reef.
“[T]he Philippines’ position on this continued Chinese presence in the WPS has been unequivocal, as articulated by the recent statement of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea and the statement today by the Department of National Defense,” it told reporters on Saturday night.
Last month, the agency asserted Manila’s claim on the said reef which lies about 175 nautical miles off Bataraza, Palawan, well within the country’s 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone.
In a March 23 statement, the DFA said the continued deployment, lingering presence and activities of Chinese vessels in Philippine maritime zones “blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.”
Source: Philippines News Agency