The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday assured that it will file within this week a diplomatic protest against presence of China’s new survey vessels at Recto (Reed) Bank in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a news briefing that the diplomatic protest will be filed with the Chinese Embassy in Makati City (Metro Manila).
In an earlier briefing, Jose maintained that the Recto Bank is part of Philippine territory, not part of disputed areas in the South China Sea.
Recto Bank sits 144 kilometers away from western Palawan province, and is clearly part of the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) enshrined under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
But China’s claim, based on its nine-dash line, covers almost 90 percent of the 3.5 million square kilometer West Philippine Sea.
The presence of Chinese vessels and the “sovereign patrols” of the bank affect the ability of the Philippines to exercise its sovereign rights in the area.
“Sovereign patrols” means Chinese vessels are constantly moving in the area but are keeping their visibility there.
Military reports said the vessels seemed to be surveying and charting Reed Bank.
These supposed activities sparked further tensions between the two countries that were fueled by a year-long Chinese occupation of the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and Beijing’s aggressive activities in the West Philippine Sea, including what Manila said was China’s reclamation of at least five Philippine-claimed reefs.