Statement of the Department of Foreign Affairs:
The situation at Bajo de Masinloc
[May 23, 2012]
- The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is committed to efforts of defusing the tensions in Bajo de Masinloc. Talks are continuing between the DFA and the Chinese Embassy officials. However, we have received reports from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that there is an increasing number and pattern of Chinese Government vessels and fishing vessels in the area.
- At around 1900H of May 21, 2012, there were five Chinese Government vessels (CMS-71, CMS-84, FLEC-301, FLEC-303 and FLEC-310), and 16 Chinese fishing boats, ten of which were inside the lagoon while six were outside. In addition, there were 56 utility boats, 27 of which were inside the lagoon and 29 were outside.
- Yesterday, there were still 16 Chinese fishing vessels and the number of utility boats went up to 76.
- It is regrettable that these actions occurred at a time when China has been articulating for a deescalation of tensions and while the two sides have been discussing how to defuse the situation in the area.
- The Philippines protests these actions of China as clear violations of Philippine sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Shoal and sovereign rights over the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that covers the waters around Bajo de Masinloc.
- These actions of China are also in violation of the ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea specifically paragraph 5 which calls the Parties
… to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.
- The recent actions of China are also in violation of the United Nations Charter, specifically Article 2.4, which provides the following:
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
- In this connection, the DFA expressed its grave concern over these continuing actions by China that escalate tension in Bajo de Masinloc in a Note Verbale dated May 21, 2012, sent to the Chinese Government through the Chinese Embassy in Manila.
- Likewise, the increase in the number of China’s vessels in the area imperils the marine biodiversity in the Shoal and threatens the marine ecosystem in the whole West Philippine Sea. The Philippines has documented the many instances where Chinese fishermen have unlawfully dredged the area and illegally harvested giant clams and corals.
- The Philippines, therefore, demands that China’s vessels immediately pull out from Bajo de Masinloc and the Philippines’ EEZ and for China to refrain from taking further actions that exacerbate the situation in the West Philippine Sea.
- Discussions to defuse the tensions in Bajo de Masinloc are continuing cognizant of our mandate under the Philippine Constitution to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Presence of Chinese vessels in Bajo de Masinloc, May 10, 2012. (Source: Philippine Coast Guard Reports)