68 diplomatic protests sent to China under Marcos government

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A CHINESE Coast Guard ship ‘shadowing’ a Philippine vessel on its way to deliver supplies on Dec. 17 to troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre, which is grounded in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. — WESTERN COMMAND-AFP

THE DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday said 68 diplomatic protests over maritime incidents have been filed against China since the Marcos administration began in July.

“That’s 68 NVs (note verbale),” DFA Spokesperson Maria Theresita C. Daza told reporters.

“From 2016 to 2021, there were 262 NVs sent. In 2022, 195, and as of Jan. 3, 2023, there was 1 NV already sent,” she said. 

Ms. Daza said Beijing responded to some of the diplomatic notes.

“There are cases… where they’ve also responded to the protests and actually answered, so it is an exchange.”

The Philippine Coast Guard reported last weekend that a Chinese Coast Guard vessel allegedly drove away a Filipino fishing boat from the Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin, which is within the Southeast Asian nation’s exclusive economic zone.

The DFA is still awaiting official reports from various agencies for proper verification and assessment before taking action. 

“Bilateral maritime issues and incidents including the reported fishing incident in Ayungin shoal on January 2023 will continue to be discussed through existing diplomatic channels,” Ms. Daza said.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said earlier this week that Manila had used a new communication mechanism, agreed upon during his state visit to China in the first week of January, to contact Beijing directly over the latest incident.   

“So we have immediately used that thing, that mechanism that I talked about,” he said.

“But it does not preclude us from continuing to make protests and continuing to send note verbale concerning this,” he added.

Mr. Marcos was referring to the implementation of the Philippine-China 2017 Memorandum of Understanding on strengthening cooperation, Ms. Daza said, which provides an enhancement of communication and coordination on major issues.

“The arrangement establishes a communication mechanism in maritime issues between the DFA and the Chinese foreign ministry. It does not involve other Philippine or Chinese agencies,” she said.

China maintains its rejection of a 2016 arbitral ruling that voided its claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea based on a 1940s nine-dash line map.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration based in the Hague upheld the Philippines’ rights to its exclusive economic zone within the disputed waterway.

Ms. Daza said different levels of bilateral and regional engagements are continuing.

“Our business is actually ensuring that we continue to dialogue, we continue to negotiate, we continue to make representation,” she said. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan