By Bernice Camille V. Bauzon Reporter
The incursion of Chinese vessels in the Ayungin Shoal is a “strategy” for China to strengthen its nine-dash
line claim in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Wednesday.
Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, confirmed that the Chinese fleet that includes a war ship and 30 fishing vessels are still in the vicinity of the shoal despite the diplomatic protest sent to the Chinese Embassy in Manila on May 10. The embassy has yet to respond to the protest.
“In accordance to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [Unclos], only the Philippines has sovereign rights over the continental shelf and exclusive economic zone of the area where Ayungin Shoal is located,” he told reporters.
“No other state is entitled to observe sovereignty or sovereign rights over the area. This intrusion is provocative and illegal,” the official added.
Ayungin Shoal is an integral part of Philippine maritime territory as it sits just 105.77 nautical miles away from Palawan, within the country’s 200-nautical mile EEZ as provided by the Unclos.
For now, Hernandez said the Foreign Affairs department is assessing the situation.
But he maintained that “no one should doubt our resolve to defend what is ours in that area.”
As the Philippines is again embroiled in another diplomatic row with China,
Japan vowed to fast track the release of patrol boats that the Philippines can use to protect its coastal waters.
An agreement is expected to be signed today in Tokyo between Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, a report on Japan Daily Press said.
In December last year, the Philippines formally requested for about 10 coast guard patrol ships. A fact-finding mission was sent by Tokyo in May to assess the situation and the need of Manila for such vessels. Experts from the Japan International Cooperation Agency were part of the mission.
The vessels will be turned over starting April 2014. Each patrol ship will coast more than 1 billion yen or $9.7 million.
It will be part of Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) to the Philippines.
The acceleration of the plan to provide coast guard vessels came amid China’s perceived aggressiveness in the region.
Tokyo also has standing territorial disputes with Beijing over a group of uninhabited islands, called Diayou by the Chinese and Senkaku by the Japanese, in the East China Sea.
The Philippines, on the other hand, has partial claims on the Spratly Islands, which China