The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines argued that the West Philippine Sea is a “traditional fishing area” for Chinese fishermen.
This was the embassy's reaction to the objection submitted by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in April concerning the presence of Chinese warships in the Julian Felipe Reef.
On April 4, 2022, the vessels were discovered illegally operating in the maritime waters of Julian Felipe Reef, which is a low-tide elevation within the territorial sea of significant high tide features in the Kalayaan Island Group, including Chigua Reef, according to the DFA.
The department states that the presence of Chinese vessels on the Julian Felipe Reef without permission is “not only illegal but also a source of instability in the region,” according to the department.
“The persistent swarming of Chinese vessels is contrary to international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the final and binding 2016 Arbitral Award. It is also a violation of China's commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, particularly the exercise of self-restraint according to Paragraph 5 thereof,” the DFA said in a statement.
Chinese Embassy: West Philippine Sea a ‘traditional fishing ground' for Chinese fishers
The DFA has urged China to follow international law and refrain from “illegal and irresponsible behavior” to avoid new maritime confrontations.
It also demanded that its ships leave the Philippine territorial seas immediately.
However, according to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, the DFA and the Chinese government are making contradictory representations of maritime issues.
Nonetheless, Huang stated that this is only a small aspect of the two the Philippines and China's relationship.
The Chinese Embassy has yet to respond to the DFA's newest diplomatic protest regarding China's maritime activities within Manila's 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
The DFA has previously filed over 300 complaints against Beijing's “illegal” activity in the West Philippine Sea, which Manila claims as part of the enormous South China Sea.
Despite an arbitration verdict in 2016 rejecting Beijing's claim to broad swaths of the South China Sea, China maintains its presence in the vital waterway.