By Anna Leah Gonzales
MANILA – The Philippines has lodged a diplomatic protest with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the consecutive water cannon incidents in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday.
DFA spokesperson and assistant secretary Ma. Teresita Daza said the Philippines used the so-called “maritime communication mechanism” at around 12 noon on Sunday and filed a diplomatic protest with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
She added that the Philippine Embassy in Beijing has made a “demarche to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials” over the Bajo de Masinloc and Ayungin Shoal incidents.
“We used the maritime communication mechanism, and it was used yesterday at 12 o’clock noon. The Department of Foreign Affairs lodged its diplomatic protest with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs counterpart through a phone call,” said Daza.
“And in terms of the démarche undertaken by our Philippine Embassy in Beijing, yes, we confirmed that our Philippine Embassy in Beijing has the démarche to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs official yesterday concerning the Bajo de Masinloc incident and the Ayungin Shoal incident,” she added.
The Philippines was conducting a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal when its vessels were rammed and water cannoned by the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) on Sunday.
The day before that, on Saturday, three Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels providing humanitarian support to Filipino fisherfolk off Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) were also water cannoned at least eight times by CCG ships while a long-range acoustic device caused severe temporary discomfort and incapacitation to some Filipino crew.
Daza said the Chinese ambassador to Manila has also been summoned so the Philippines could protest the incidents.
Daza said the European Union and at least 14 countries have expressed support to the Philippines amid the recent aggression and harassment of the Chinese Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea.
Among these countries are France, the United States of America, Japan, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
“We’re very appreciative of the fact that many countries have actually expressed support for the Philippines. And, as of our latest count, there has been 14 [countries] or so,” Daza.
Daza said the Philippines is getting international backing due to the serious actions being undertaken by China in the West Philippine Sea over the last few days as it “caused damaged not only to vessels, but it can also be harmful to the ones manning the vessels.”
“Bajo de Masinloc is an integral part of Philippine territory, and over which the Philippines has sovereignty and jurisdiction. China’s action on 9 December, dowsing a Philippine vessel using water cannon are serous actions aimed at preventing Philippine authorities from undertaking legitimate activities around the area,” said Daza.
“These actions violate the Philippines sovereignty and jurisdiction and our threat to peace, good order and security,” she added.
Meanwhile, British Ambassador Laure Beaufils said the UK “is aware of the unsafe actions” by China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels against Philippines BFAR vessels near Scarborough Shoal.
She noted such actions endanger lives and livelihoods and undermine regional peace and stability.
“The UK reiterates its full support for UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” she said.
Australian Ambassador HK Yu also expressed serious concern over China’s “dangerous actions against the Philippine vessels”.
“This endangers lives and livelihoods. Australia, again reiterates the call for peace, stability and respect for UNCLOS in the South China Sea, a vital international waterway for us all,” she said. (With a report from Ma. Teresa Montemayor/PNA)