Philippines Filed Over 100 Protests Against China’s Sea Incursions This Year

Philippines Filed Over 100 Protests Against China’s Sea Incursions This Year
A Chinese Coast Guard ship sails near a Philippine Coast Guard vessel during its patrol at Bajo de Masinloc, 124 nautical miles west of Zambales province northwestern Philippines, on March 2, 2022. (Philippine Coast Guard via AP)
Aldgra Fredly

Chinese vessels continue to swarm Philippine waters in the disputed South China Sea despite the Philippines having filed over 100 protests against China's sea incursions this year, according to officials.

A total of 172 protests were filed against China's illegal presence, illegal fishing, harassment of local fishermen, and unauthorized marine scientific research as of Aug. 31, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Angela Ponce told the senate committee on foreign affairs on Sept. 8.

Of those, 48 protests were filed under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office on June 30. His predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, filed 388 diplomatic protests against China over his six-year term as president.

Ponce said the government also filed two diplomatic protests against Vietnam over the South China Sea, which the Filipinos refer to as the West Philippine Sea, local media Inquirer.Net reported.

Sen. Imee Marcos, sister of the president, questioned the effectiveness of filing hundreds of protests against China.

"What's the point of sending hundreds of protests aside from annoying both parties?" she asked the officials, according to Inquirer.Net. "It's embarrassing when you keep on writing to them, only to be ignored. You lose your dignity and respect, and it doesn't look good."

Philippine Seeks to Bolster Maritime Capabilities

Defense Undersecretary Angelito de Leon said in the same meeting that "swarming incidents" persist in Philippine waters despite the protests, prompting the national coast guard to bolster maritime domain awareness and patrols.

"The current situation in the West Philippine Sea remains to be worth looking into because there are certain concerns on security," De Leon told the senate committee.

De Leon said the Philippine coast guard aims to increase its capabilities by leveraging alliances with the nation's allies and partners to conduct joint drills and acquire additional monitoring equipment and ships.

"We have limitations. We do not want to escalate the issue and go into a full-blown military confrontation because of the disproportionate use of force," he said.

Beijing claims much of the South China Sea as its own under its so-called "nine-dash line." The Hague Tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2016. But the ruling has not impacted the Chinese regime's behavior, with Chinese vessels repeatedly intruding into the Philippines' territorial zones.

Manila lodged a diplomatic protest against China on June 9 over the "illegal" presence of over 100 Chinese vessels swarming Julian Felipe Reef in April, the same area where 200 Chinese vessels were spotted sailing in March 2021.
Marcos has earlier vowed to uphold the Hague Tribunal's 2016 ruling and said that his new administration would talk to Beijing "with a firm voice" regarding territorial issues.

"We will not allow a single square, and maybe make it even more smaller, single square millimeter of our maritime coastal and up to 200 kilometers rights to be trampled upon," he said on May 26.