China on Saturday urged the Philippines to stop its allegedly "illegal provocations" in the West Philippine Sea, claiming it was intruding into China’s security and Sovereignty.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian issued the statement after the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China for what it said was China’s “continuing illicit issuances of radio challenges [against] Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.”
The Philippines had sent military planes over the air space of the disputed Spratly Group of Islands, where most of the Philippine claims in the West Philippine Sea are located.
But China, which claims allegedly historic rights to the islands, said sending the planes was an intrusion on its security and sovereignty.
In its diplomatic protest, the Philippines also slammed the Chinese Coast Guard's confiscation of fish- aggregating devices installed by Filipino fishermen.
The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China following the confiscation of the devices in a shoal off Zambales.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it sent a diplomatic protest to China on Thursday over the incident that took place in May 2020 in the Philippine-claimed Bajo de Masinloc.
“The DFA lodged a diplomatic protest to China over the illegal confiscation by the Chinese Coast Guard of fish-aggregating devices or payaos of Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc,” the department said in a statement.
The agency made its statement even as Malacañang on Friday expressed confidence the Philippines’ latest filing of a diplomatic protest against China would not affect the ties between the two countries.
“The filing of the diplomatic protest would not affect the very good relations between our country and China,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told the state-run PTV-4.
The Philippines also “resolutely objected to China’s continuing illicit issuance of radio challenges to Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea,” Foreign Affairs said.
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including the waters within the exclusive economic zones of the Philippines.
The Scarborough shoal, locally known as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, is among the Philippine-claimed territories in the West Philippine Sea that are also being claimed by the Chinese under its nine-dash line map.
Philippine ships have long left the area, but maritime patrols continue to monitor the movement of Chinese vessels there.
Fishermen from Zambales have reported being turned away by the Chinese from the shoal, which is part of their traditional fishing grounds.
In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidated China’s nine-dash-line claim in the South China Sea.
Roque said it was only normal to file a diplomatic protest against any acts that the country deemed to be an affront to its sovereignty.
“It is natural for our diplomats to file a diplomatic protest if they think the act violates our sovereignty or sovereign rights,” he said.
Scarborough Shoal is a triangle-shaped coral reef located 124 nautical miles off Zambales. It is also an integral part of the Philippine territory under the municipality of Masinloc in Zambales province.