PH to file protest vs China’s firing flares

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Malacañang on Wednesday, November 6, said the Philippine government would file a protest over China’s reported firing of warning flares against a Philippine military aircraft patrolling the West Philippine (South China) Sea, saying such action is “provocative.”

Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said the government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, would fire a diplomatic protest against China once the Department of Defense confirms the report.

“We’ll take the stand of the SND (Secretary of National Defense). We’ll have to validate what exactly happened there. If that’s true we have to object to that,” he told reporters.

“Why not? If you’re doing things that will aggravate the situation there, there is already tension there. Precisely that is the common stand of the ASEAN members that there should be an exercise of self-restraint among the claimants so that it will not aggravate the situation. Anything that will aggravate the situation, it is [a provocative action],” the spokesman added.

ASEAN is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Panelo made the statement after Armed Forces deputy chief of staff for Intelligence Reuben Basiao revealed that China fired flares against a Philippine military aircraft conducting maritime patrols in the disputed sea.

During a meeting with the House Committee on National Defense and Security, Basiao said China had been making “significant improvements” in staking its claims in the West Philippine Sea.

“Recently, Beijing has also issued flare warnings against Philippine aircraft covering these areas, and from January to June 2019, there have been six flare warnings against Philippine maritime patrols have been noticed,” Basiao told the House panel on Tuesday.

According to him, China also deployed 17 research vessels in Philippine waters from January to June.

He said China’s operations had expanded to the Philippines’ eastern seaboard, particularly east of the Philippine rise.

“Other South China Sea claimants are likewise undertaking efforts to safeguard their claimed territories,” Basiao added.

In September, Greek-owned oil tanker Green Aura manned by Filipinos was “harassed” by a “Chinese naval warship” near Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal on its way to China.

A Chinese Coast Guard ship had also blocked in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal three Philippine vessels that were on their way to replenish the supply of personnel on board the BRP Sierra Madre, a marooned rusty wartime ship in the Spratly Islands, according to a report from the Department of National Defense.

At least nine Chinese warships have sailed in Philippine waters since February, with some of these ships failing to inform local authorities or even deliberately turning off their navigation systems to evade detection. Manila has protested their presence several times.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, including parts of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

Beijing’s claims, however, had been found to be without basis by a The Hague-based arbitral tribunal created under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

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