The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has asked China to clarify its contradictory words and actions regarding its stance on the disputed West Philippines Sea.
Meanwhile, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Wednesday urged China to order its Navy, Coast Guard and militia vessels to leave the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
During the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Shangri-la Dialogue 2023, PCG spokesman for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela asked China about the contradictions.
“So while China is talking about dialogue, China’s actions show confrontation. My question is; Why is there a big difference between China’s words and its actions,” Tarriela said.
Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense General Li Shangfu avoided answering the questions directly. He cited instead an alleged confrontational incident at the Taiwan Strait recently.
“Foreign vessels and fighter jets coming to areas near our territory. They are not here for innocent passage; they are for provocation,” Li said.
China has indicated interest in reviving the joint committee meeting between the PCG and its Chinese counterpart after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said the Philippines has a neutral foreign policy.
Despite the ongoing tension in the region, Marcos said the Philippines would not give up an inch of its territory including the West Philippine Sea.
Rodriguez made the call following the departure of China’s research ship Xiang Yang Hong 10 and its dozen escort vessels from Vietnam’s EEZ early this week amid high-level talks between Chinese and United States officials in Beijing.
Vietnam had protested China’s presence in its EEZ.
“I don’t know what prompted the Chinese to leave Vietnam’s territorial waters, whether it was the Vietnamese protest or the US-China talks. But whatever it was, if they left Vietnam’s EEZ, they should also leave our exclusive economic zone,” Rodriguez explained.
He said no country, big or small, should assume the right to encroach on another nation’s EEZ.
“The Chinese have no business staying in waters, shoals and islets that belong to us under international law,” the Mindanao lawmaker said.
Last month, the PCG reported that more than 100 Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels remained at the Ayungin Shoal and Juan Felipe Reef off Palawan.
The Philippines maintains a small platoon of soldiers at the Ayungin Shoal as a symbol of its sovereignty over the area. Chinese Coast Guard vessels routinely confront Philippine ships and small boats bringing supplies to the troops in the area.
“Ayungin and Juan Felipe Reef are well within our 200-mile EEZ, the shoal being about 120 miles and the reef around 175 miles from Palawan. Those are more than 800 miles from the nearest Chinese island. China should abandon those areas,” said Rodriguez, chair of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments.
He said the Chinese should also leave Scarborough Shoal, which is 120 miles off Zambales and Pangasinan.
Rodriguez has been a consistent critic of Chinese presence in the Philippines’ EEZ, bullying of Philippine vessels and Filipino fishermen.
Rodriguez also lauded the statement of newly installed Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. to the effect that “what is ours is ours.”
“It’s a very courageous declaration. I hope that we can walk the talk,” Rodriguez said.