Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin Jr. said Wednesday that the Philippines has already lodged a diplomatic protest against China’s latest “swarming” activity in the disputed waters.
Earlier in the day, National Security Advisor Hermogenes Esperon said it was the inter-agency task force of the country that made the suggestion to lodge the protest.The safety advisor said intelligence is looking into the activity, stating the “swarming” activity could be a “dry run” for a plan to block resupply missions around the disputed territory.
Locsin did not say when the protest was lodged, but the Philippine government expressed its severe concern both in writing and face-to-face talks with Chinese representatives in Manila and Beijing.
Manila has long voiced concern about the recurring presence of Chinese flotilla on Pag-asa Island, an region in the Spratlys in the disputed South China Sea also claimed by China. The Phlippines relates to the waters in the South China Sea that fall within its exclusive economic zone as the West Philippine Sea.
Earlier this year, more than 200 Chinese ships were found in the region and this month’s recent intervention by China to send dozens of ships to Pag-asa complicates the already tense scenario in the South China Sea. Esperon stated that he doesn’t understand the motive of China to swarm the region with its ships.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who chose to reject the 2016 arbitration decision that denigrated Beijing’s huge water claims, was criticized for his friendly openings to China despite his aggressive behavior and attempts to drive Filipinos out of their own waters in the West Philippine Sea.
Unlike his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, Duterte took a non-confrontational strategy to Manila’s territorial disputes with China in return for loans and assistance.