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DFA slams China for accusing Philippines of Panatag ‘intrusion’

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) slammed China yesterday for accusing the Philippines of intruding into Panatag Shoal, saying Manila has no obligation to seek the permission of Beijing when navigating in its own waters.

In a statement, the DFA said the Southern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has “no legal basis” to claim that the BRP Conrado Yap intruded into the waters of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal on Oct. 30.

Panatag, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, is an integral part of Philippine territory as acknowledged under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the DFA pointed out.

The 2016 Arbitral Award upheld its status as a high-tide feature that has no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf of its own as opposed to an island as defined under Article 121(3) of the UNCLOS.

“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.”

The 2016 Arbitral Award categorically declared that China’s claims of historic rights, or other rights or jurisdiction, over massive areas in the South China Sea are contrary to UNCLOS.

“It is China that is intruding into Philippine waters,” the DFA said.

The department reminded Chinese authorities that their apparent exercise of maritime law enforcement powers, interference with Philippine vessels, harassment and intimidation of Filipino fisherfolk, or any other activity that infringes upon the Philippines’ sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in Bajo de Masinloc and the West Philippine Sea are violations of international law, particularly UNCLOS and the Arbitral Award.

The Philippines has consistently demanded that Chinese vessels in Bajo de Masinloc leave the area immediately.

The US embassy in Manila warned that the PLA’s persistent swarming and shadowing of the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard – as well as