DFA tells China to engage PH based on facts after laser-use row

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday asked China to engage the Philippines in exchanges based on “truth and goodwill”, citing a disconnect in their statements and what is actually happening in the West Philippine Sea days after the laser-pointing incident at the Ayungin Shoal.

In a media briefing, DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said there seems to be “lack of congruence” between China’s announcements and the actual events on the seas.

“We want to engage China as friends but as friends, we have to engage based on truth and goodwill. We have to have congruence with what is being said and what is being done in the waters and we want to actually build on the relationship, but this incident should not continue if we are to build on that,” she said with strong emphasis.

Official government reports said a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel on February 6 “shadowed” and pointed a military-grade laser towards the Philippine Coast Guard’s patrol vessel BRP Malapascua, which temporarily blinded its crew.

In return, China defended its act as a response to what it called “intrusion” into Chinese waters and that the CCG’s action was “professional and restrained.”

Daza strongly refuted this statement and asserted that that Ayungin Shoal is well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and to direct a laser to a vessel “not just once but twice is definitely not a “professional and restrained act” in any account.

“This is certainly not in keeping with relevant rules and regulation on navigational safety, not to mention the basic principles of professional seamanship and having endangered the BRP Malapascua and its crew,” she said.

“This is not legal, this is not restrained, this is not professional,” she stressed.

The Ayungin Shoal is 105 nautical miles off Palawan province and over 600 nautical miles away from China’s nearest coastline.

Under UNCLOS, a coastal state has “sovereign rights” to explore and exploit resources within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

In the same briefing, Daza reiterated that no less than President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. aired serious concerns about China’s “increasing frequency and intensity of action” in the West Philippine Sea, and that these actions were not only damaging and dangerous but also “destabilizing” in terms of regional peace and stability.

As of February 17, the DFA has lodged nine note verbales and diplomatic protests against Beijing. In an ANC interview on Friday, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu also reiterated her support to Manila’s diplomatic action.

Australia together with the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Denmark joined the Philippines in airing concern over the harassment incident.

Yu said China’s not recognizing the 2016 arbitral ruling that was based on the “Law of the Sea itself is a big problem.”

She pointed out that “it is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that provides us with clear guidance about what activities are allowed and what claims can be made.”

“We have to make sure that the international community makes it clear that UNCLOS provides that guidance and all parties should adhere to  and abide by the 2016 arbitral award.” she added.