November 3, 2023
MANILA – Any maritime patrol conducted by the Philippines at Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal is “legitimate” and does not require permission from China.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) made this assertion on Thursday in response to the latest allegations by Beijing that a Philippine military vessel “intruded” into Chinese waters when it reached the shoal on Oct. 30.
The DFA said the claim, attributed to the Southern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, had “no legal basis” since the shoal—located some 220 kilometers (137 miles) off the coast of Zambales province—lies within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Such a statement from China—this time about the movement of the Philippine Navy corvette BRP Conrado Yap (PS39)—was only intended to “raise tensions” in the West Philippine Sea, the department added.
“The Philippines’ conduct of maritime patrols in the waters around Bajo de Masinloc is a legitimate and routine act of a sovereign country in its territory and territorial sea and is part of the Philippines’ administrative responsibility,” the DFA said. “There is no obligation for the Philippines as the sovereign state to seek the approval of another when navigating its own territorial sea.”
On the contrary, “it is China that is intruding into Philippine waters,” the DFA said, citing two reasons for its rejection of Beijing’s claim:
First, China’s so-called 10-dash line (formerly nine) map has been declared by the 2016 Arbitral Award in favor of the Philippines to be in conflict with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Second, the award also recognized Bajo de Masinloc as part of the Philippines’ 370-km EEZ in the West Philippine Sea. The historic ruling particularly upheld the status of Bajo de Masinloc as a high tide feature without its own EEZ or continental shelf.
The DFA again reminded Beijing of its various violations of international law as committed by the China Coast Guard whenever it interfered both with the activities of the Philippine Coast Guard missions and the livelihood activities of Filipino fishermen.
“The Philippines has consistently demanded that Chinese vessels in Bajo de Masinloc leave the area immediately,” the DFA said.
The Philippines accuses China of intruding into its waters. The Philippines and China both lay claim to Bajo de Masinloc but sovereignty has never been established and it remains effectively under Beijing’s control since it seized it from Manila in 2012.
The shoal was part of an arbitration claim filed by Manila at an international tribunal. The court ruled in 2016 that Beijing’s claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea had no basis under international law, but China has refused to recognize the ruling.
Malacañang on Thursday said South China Sea matters will be part of the bilateral talks between Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Marcos on Friday.