THE Department of National Defense (DND) on Saturday reiterated the Philippines’ call for the 44 remaining Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef to leave.
“The Chinese Ambassador [Huang Xilian] has a lot of explaining to do. As of our latest maritime and aerial surveillance, there are still 44 Chinese vessels that are in Julian Felipe Reef,” said Lorenzana in a statement.
“I am no fool. The weather has been good so far, so they have no other reason to stay there. These vessels should be on their way out. Umalis na kayo diyan (Get out of there),” he added.
Lorenzana issued the statement a day after US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, in a phone call to his counterpart Hermogenes Esperon Jr., assured him that the US would apply its Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines in the reef, which is well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone or EEZ.
Emily Horne, spokesman of the US National Security Council, said Sullivan emphasized that the US “stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order.”
Sullivan “reaffirmed the applicability of the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty in the South China Sea,” Horne said in a statement.
Under the 70-year-old treaty, the Philippines and US are bound to support each when either one is attacked by an external force.
The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest against the presence of the Chinese ships.
“We, again, reiterate our demand for the Chinese to leave our sovereign territories and abide by international law.”
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) expressed concern over the continued presence of the Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef, which is an integral part of the Pagkakaisa Banks.
The AFP said it joins the DND in calling out the Chinese incursions and would continuously monitor the West Philippine Sea through regular air and maritime sovereignty patrols apart from the 24/7 land-based monitoring stations.
The Agham-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, a national group of Science and Technology professionals, in a statement posted on Facebook on April 2, said territorial disputes could lead to the collapse of the maritime industry.
“China’s illegal encroachment in the West Philippine Sea is counterproductive to national and global efforts in curbing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. In fact, global fisheries experts already warned of possible fisheries collapse if territorial disputes continue,” said the group.
Agham said China’s activities would also lead to a loss in livelihood of about 627,000 Filipino fisherfolk. Filipino marine scientists conducting studies in the West Philippine Sea may also be subjected to harassment, thereby impeding work vital to fisheries management.
“China’s rampant demonstration of their dominance in the West Philippine Sea is also sending a strong message that they will not allow our country to develop our own natural resources within our territorial rights. Clearly, this is a violation of the country’s integrity of our national territory,” the group added.