MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ top diplomat confirmed that the Department of Foreign Affairs will be protesting the presence of Chinese survey ships in Philippine waters.
“Okay, got it, General. [DFA] firing off diplomatic protest,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted in response to the remarks of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Lorenzana urged the Philippine government to ask the Beijing why Chinese research vessels and warships are entering Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Defense chief, however, admitted that the Philippine military has yet to confirm the presence of Chinese survey ships in the country’s EEZ.
Ryan Martinson, assistant professor at China Maritime Studies Institute of the US Naval College, tweeted photos of two Chinese oceanographic survey ships located operating in Philippine waters.
The first one was Zhang Jian spotted 80 nautical miles off the east coast of the Philippines, which started operating there since August 3.
Chinese research ship Dong Fang Hong 3 was also detected in northern Luzon on August 7.
“We’re to confirm this on our own especially in the east fronting Pacific Ocean because we do not have any radar equipment there to monitor the area,” Lorenzana said, adding that the military’s radars cannot also detect the supposed Chinese ship in Ilocos Norte in the West Philippine Sea.
Lorenzana earlier confirmed that Chinese warships passed through the Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi at least four times from February to July.
The DND chief stressed that China should inform the Philippines what its ships are doing in the country’s EEZ.
“If their intention is only to study the area or the fish or whatever the marine life there, then it is not a security threat but if they are doing other things like making reconnaissance or surveillance of our positions then it’s a threat,” Lorenzana said.
‘We’re friends’: Philippines reminds China of maritime ‘courtesies’
China should accord the Philippines the “courtesies” required of “friends,” Malacañang said Friday following sightings of Beijing’s research vessels and warships in Manila’s waters.
China did not ask for clearance before several of its warships passed through the Sibutu Strait in the Philippines’ southern tip in 4 instances from February to July, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday.
“We’re friends, we provide each other with courtesies required of friendship,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador told reporters Friday.
Lorenzana earlier raised alarm after 2 Chinese research ships were monitored by a US-based maritime expert in the West Philippine Sea this week. The incidents have prompted a diplomatic protest from Manila.
While Panelo said he agrees with Lorenzana that China should have asked the Philippines for clearance, he however noted that it is yet to be confirmed whether Beijing’s government allowed the move.
“Even on the basis of friendship, then a matter of courtesy require that we should be informed of any passage to our exclusive economic zone,” Panelo said.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua meanwhile downplayed the rising tensions Friday, saying Beijing is “not seeking trouble” amid unresolved disputes in the South China Sea.
“There are a lot of ships that [are] navigating in the South China Sea. Within military, I think each one of the ships, particularly Navy ships, deserves careful observation. Not only the Chinese and the Philippines know but also everyone,” Zhao said on the sidelines of an event.
“China will continue to be a good friend, a good neighbor and close relatives of the Filipino people,” he said.