The Philippines on Thursday confirmed that it has filed a diplomatic protest against China over reports of its continued militarization and harassment towards Filipino fishermen in the disputed South China Sea. Manila’s action was confirmed by Presidential spokesman Harry Roque to local reporters. When sought for specific details of the country’s action, Roque said: “Everything that was mentioned by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.”
Cayetano, in a congressional hearing Wednesday, said Manila has filed 50 to 100 diplomatic protests against Beijing over the past two years. He however, clarified that diplomatic protests can come in different forms. “People think that a protest has a specific form. When the president tells President Xi [Jinping], ‘That is mine and don’t get the oil,’ that’s a protest. When we file a verbal note, that’s a protest,” said Cayetano.
In a separate interview with ANC News Thursday, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato confirmed that the Philippines issued a verbal note to China last Saturday which cited developments in the disputed waters. Among the events cited was Beijing’s recent deployment of long-range bombers in the Paracel islands — though not within the area claimed by the Philippines, these bombs could cover almost the entire country.
Amid threats in the disputed water, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon also confirmed on Wednesday that the Philippines was building five lighthouses on a group of islands claimed by Manila. “We note with serious concern the growing militarization in the area, such as the deployment of military assets, especially on features near the Philippine territory,” said Esperon.
Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea. Southeast Asian Nations Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims on the waters. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague concluded in 2016 that Beijing’s claims to areas of the resource-rich sea have no legal basis in an arbitration launched by the Philippines, the “sovereign rights” of which it said China had violated.