President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (MNS Photo)

MANILA, Apr 29 (Mabuhay) — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday that China has no legal basis to prevent Philippine authorities from conducting maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.

Likewise, he noted that China’s so-called nine-dash line demarcating its massive claims has no legal basis in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and has been invalidated by the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling favoring Manila’s claims over the South China Sea.

“They have no authority or legal basis to prevent us from conducting these exercises within the WPS (West Philippine Sea). Atin yan (It’s ours),” Lorenzana told reporters.

He made the remark in reaction to Chinese government’s statement saying that the Philippines must end its maritime exercises in the disputed sea.

“Their claims according to their so-called historical rights have no basis while  we have two international documents saying the area is ours: the UNCLOS of which China is a signatory, and the Arbitral award of 2016,” he pointed out.

Earlier, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Philippines’ sovereignty patrols would escalate disputes and complicate situations.

But Lorenzana retorted that China is the one complicating the situation because of its continued incursion into the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“No, it is they who are complicating the situation by their illegal occupation of reefs which they built into artificial islands.  Walang basis ang nine-dash line nila (the nine-dash line has no basis) according to an international tribunal,” he said.

Therefore, sila ang nagko-complicate (they are the ones) complicating the situation by insisting to stay within our WPS,” the defense chief added.

Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs downplayed Beijing’s statement, saying the Philippines has rights over the WPS by virtue of the Hague-based arbitral court ruling, which China has consistently dismissed.

At present, the National Task Force on West Philippine Sea reported that Chinese vessels continue to stay within the Philippine EEZ, including the Bajo de Masinloc (BdM), Municipality of Kalayaan, and in Ayungin Shoal areas.  (MNS)

READ NEXT: China ‘good friend’ but I won’t compromise WPS: Duterte