The Philippines has protested China’s “dangerous maneuver” against its coast guard vessels that patrolled and trained last month near a shoal in the South China Sea, where Manila’s top diplomat issued expletive-laden remarks toward Beijing.
Chinese coast guards shadowed, blockaded and issued radio challenges to the Manila crew near Scarborough Shoal, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday in a statement announcing it had protested China’s actions. China’s claim over the shoal, which is 124 nautical miles from the Philippines, is “baseless” and Beijing has “no law enforcement rights in these areas,” it said.
The Philippine Foreign Ministry said it had also protested the “incessant, illegal, prolonged and increasing presence” of China’s fishing vessels and maritime militia in its economic zones.
Manila’s latest statements signal a further increase in tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea. The Philippines has sent more ships and conducted exercises in the disputed waters, even as President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will not confront China. Beijing has said the presence of its ships in the area is normal and legitimate.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin issued a strongly worded statement on Twitter on Monday, calling on China to get out of the disputed waters. His agency made the same call for the withdrawal of Chinese vessels around Scarborough Shoal and the Kalayaan island group in the Spratly Islands.
Scarborough Shoal is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, his government said, while it is about 472 nautical miles from China’s nearest coast.
Duterte favors negotiations with China and will continue his “careful, calculated and calibrated” policy to deal with the maritime dispute, spokesman Harry Roque said in a briefing Monday. Hard-line responses will solve nothing and could lead to war, Roque said.
The Philippines will continue to patrol in the South China Sea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement issued Sunday. “The government will not waver in its position. We will not leave,” he said. (Adds statements by the top diplomat and the president’s spokesman).