Philippines protests against new Chinese ‘swarming’ in the South China Sea — Radio Free Asia

The Philippines said on Thursday it had filed a new diplomatic protest against Beijing over the alleged return of a massive Chinese fleet operating “illegally” around Whitsun Reef in Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea.

The Foreign Office made the announcement hours after US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met in Manila with President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. during a visit which she said was part of and open to the Indo-Pacific.

The department said it was “protesting the return of over 100 Chinese vessels operating illegally in and around Julian Felipe Reef waters on April 4, 2022, just one year after the same swarming incident was protested by the Philippine government”.

In its statement, the department did not say when the diplomatic protest was filed or if the ships remained on the reef. The department and the Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to requests for comment from BenarNews on Thursday evening.

Internationally known as Whitsun Reef, Julian Felipe Reef is described as “a low tide shoal in the territorial sea of ​​high tide relevant characteristics” in the Kalayaan Islands in the South China Sea, the Ministry of Fisheries said. Foreign Affairs.

“The continued unauthorized presence of Chinese fishing and maritime vessels is not only illegal, but also a source of instability in the region,” he said.

The statement noted that the “persistent swarming” of Chinese vessels violated the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and “the final and binding arbitral award of 2016” won by the Philippines over China. Additionally, it was a violation of a regional agreement to avoid actions that could inflame tensions, the department said.

In March and April, complaints from the Philippines regarding hundreds of Chinese ships and boats aggregations in the waters of Whitsun Reef have been at the center of bilateral tensions over the disputed sea.

The announcement of the latest protest came about 10 days after the ministry convened a Chinese senior diplomat to protest the Chinese Coast Guard’s alleged harassment of a joint Philippine-Taiwanese research vessel in the South China Sea in April.

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard in rubber dinghies patrol near Chinese ships docked at Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea, April 14, 2021. Credit: Philippine Coast Guard via AP

Sherman-Marcos meeting

Earlier Thursday, Sherman met Marcos at his campaign headquarters where they were joined by Philippine envoy to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez and other officials.

Sherman and Marcos “agreed on the importance of partnering to strengthen our economies,” according to the US State Department.

Topics discussed included the countries’ longstanding alliance, the importance of public-private partnership, clean energy, the digital economy, and the importance of human rights and the rule of law.

“The Deputy Secretary and the President-elect underscored the importance of the U.S.-Philippine alliance to security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and globally,” the U.S. statement said.

Sherman, the highest-ranking State Department official to visit since the pandemic, also paid a courtesy visit to Locsin, the nation’s top diplomat.

In a series of Twitter posts, the Foreign Office said Sherman and Locsin discussed “concrete ways to further improve relations” as part of a government transition.

Sherman’s visit to Manila marked the second leg of a four-country Asian tour, which kicked off in South Korea earlier this week and will take her to Laos and Vietnam.

During a stopover in Hanoi scheduled for this weekend, the question of Chinese plans to build a naval base in cambodia are likely to be on the agenda of Sherman’s talks with Vietnamese officials, diplomatic sources told RFA.

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