By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

GUEST. A vessel of the China Coast Guard docks at Pier 15 in Port Area, Manila on Jan. 14, 2020. At the time, Chinese officials said the visit aimed to strengthen dialogue and cooperation on maritime law enforcement. (Xinhua/Rouelle Umali)

MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has protested a recent incident involving the Chinese Coast Guard which forcefully took a rocket debris from the Philippine Navy off the Pag-asa Island.

The protest was lodged on Dec. 12, calling out China’s “illegal actions” during the encounter, according to a statement by DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza on Friday.

The diplomatic note was filed after the DFA sent an initial note verbale seeking clarification from the Chinese side on Nov. 24.

“The Department appreciated the clarity with which the Senate has expressed its view on a wide scope of issues on the West Philippines Sea,” Daza said. “Specific to the rocket debris retrieval operations of the Philippine Navy, the DFA has undertaken appropriate diplomatic action to protest and make known our view on the illegal actions of the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) on Nov. 20, 2022.”

The Senate has adopted a resolution expressing “disgust” over the Pag-asa incident while members of the military and diplomatic corps were urged to denounce the “brazen intrusions into Philippine maritime territory and assert the country’s rights, citing the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Arbitral Award.”

The debris incident occurred near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea, located northwest of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, after a team from the Naval Station Emilio Liwanag (NSEL) retrieved debris from a Chinese Long March 5B rocket that fell on the Spratlys.

Western Command chief, Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, who first reported the incident, accused the CCG of “forcefully” retrieving the object which China later denied, claiming the Philippine side handed it over “after friendly consultation”.

On Wednesday, Senator Francis Tolentino presented before the Senate the actual video of the CCG boat cutting the towing line attached to the NSEL rubber boat that fished out the rocket part.

A Philippine Navy officer was heard asking their Chinese counterparts to stop but did not get a response. (PNA)