Statement: DFA Deplores Chinese Embassy Response to Secretary of Defense’s Statement
1. The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly deplores the statement of the Chinese Embassy Spokesperson reacting to the 3 April 2021 statement of Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana calling on Chinese vessels to leave the waters in the area and vicinity of Julian Felipe Reef.
2. The Embassy statement contained blatant falsehoods such as claims of adverse weather conditions when there were none and the supposed non-existence of maritime militia vessels in the area. The statement also attempted to promote the clearly false narrative of China’s expansive and illegitimate claims in the West Philippine Sea.
3. Julian Felipe Reef is part of the Kalayaan Island Group and lies in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of the Philippines. It is located 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza town in Palawan and 638.229 nautical miles from Hainan Island.
4. The Department of Foreign Affairs rejects China’s assertion that Julian Felipe Reef and its waters are their “traditional fishing grounds.” Tradition yields to law whether or not it is regarded as traditional fishing. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) -- to which both the Republic of the Philippines and China are parties -- and the final and binding 12 July 2016 Award in the South China Sea Arbitration are clearly the only norm applicable to this situation.
5. The 12 July 2016 Award in the South China Sea Arbitration conclusively settled the issue of historic rights and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea. The Tribunal ruled that claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction that exceed the geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements under UNCLOS, are without lawful effect. It further ruled that UNCLOS “superseded any historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, in excess of the limits imposed therein.”
6. The Department of Foreign Affairs therefore reiterates the demand of the Secretary of National Defense that China immediately withdraw its fishing vessels and maritime assets in the area and vicinity of Julian Felipe Reef and in the Philippines’ maritime zones. For every day of delay, the Republic of the Philippines will lodge a diplomatic protest.
7. The continued deployment, lingering presence and activities of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea and China’s tolerance thereof blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction. These are contrary to China’s commitments under international law and the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and demonstrate lack of good faith in the ongoing negotiations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea between ASEAN and China.
8. Moreover, the Department of Foreign Affairs strongly denounces the Embassy’s attempt to impugn the Secretary of National Defense -- a Cabinet Official of the Republic of the Philippines -- by calling his statement “unprofessional”. Chinese Embassy officials are reminded that they are guests of the Philippine Government, and as guests must at all times observe protocol and accord respect to Philippine Government officials. END