The Philippines, on May 29, launched a diplomatic protest against China’s “continuing illegal presence and activities” near its Thitu islands. In a press statement, the Filipino Foreign Ministry confirmed that it was objecting “against the incessant deployment, prolonged presence, and illegal activities of Chinese maritime assets and fishing vessels” in the vicinity of Thitu or the Pag-asa Island. Thitu islands, which literally translates to “island of hope’ is a part of Spratly Islands, an archipelago located in the South China Sea, which is claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia as well as the Philippines.

‼️RE‼️ #DFAStatement: On the Continuing Illegal Presence and Activities of Chinese Vessels in the Pag-asa Islands

Also found in this link 👉🏻 — DFA Philippines (@DFAPHL) May 29, 2021

‘Withdraw vessels’

In 2016, the Hague based Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected China’s claims on the South China Sea and areas inside the ‘nine-dash line’ and ruled in favour of the Philippines, which currently has operational control over the Thitu islands. China and Taiwan have both rejected the ruling. Meanwhile, the Philippines on Saturday asked China to call back its vessels from the disputed area asserting that the Pag-asa Island was an “integral part of the Philippines over which it has sovereignty and jurisdiction”.

Beijing, which claims its sovereignty, without evidence, over the 3.5 million square kilometers the South China Sea, has ramped up its assertiveness in the region. Threatened with China’s ambition to alter the status of the Pacific region and increased encounters with Chinese vessels, Manila has “substantially” increased patrol vehicles in the area, a Washington based think tank claimed.

Recently, the Philippines Defence Minister accused China of planning to occupy more “features” in the disputed South China Sea as tensions between both nations escalate over Beijing’s territorial claims in the waters. China claims almost all of the South China Sea which is a resource-rich area and has even asserted its stance by building up several small shoals and reefs into military bases with airstrips along with other port facilities. Philippines Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana lambasted China for its “utter disregard” of international law. The diplomatic war of words between China and the Philippines stemmed last month from a fleet of more than 200 Chinese ships after parking at Whitsun Reef off the Philippines is now scattered across the Spratly Islands.

Image: AP