Philippines files diplomatic protest vs China over presence of vessels near Pag-asa Island
The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest over the presence of Chinese vessels near Manila-claimed Pag-asa Island in South China Sea.
In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said this was the information relayed to him by military's Western Command (Wescom), which has jurisdiction over Palawan where Pag-asa Island is located.
"I understand we have already issued a diplomatic protest per the Western Command. The DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) has already made a diplomatic protest over it," he said.
He said the diplomatic protest was made over the "incident on the so-called vessels being stationed there (Pag-asa)."
Panelo could not give further details, such as when the protest was made.
As per report of Vice Admiral Rene Medina of Wescom, who conveyed the information to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who in turn informed him about the report, Panelo said there were 275 Chinese fishing vessels from January to March, not 617 as per report by a television network, near Pag-asa Island.
Contrary to TV report, he also said Chinese vessels were not "circling Pag-asa Island," but were just there on "standby, perhaps monitoring."
He could not say if the Chinese vessels were boarded by Chinese militiamen.
Meanwhile, Panelo and Chinese Ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua met at the former's office in Malacanang.
A statement released by Panelo's office after the 50-minute meeting, it said that both officials recognized the value of responsible utilization of marine resources of the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea, including the rich fishing ground of the Scarborough Shoal.
"Both officials likewise give importance to the existing bilateral consultation mechanism between China and the Philippines as an avenue to address possible issues in the West Philippine Sea and to resolve any conflict or misunderstanding that may arise therefrom," it added.
China has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea, including those areas within the 200-nautical miles exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. Celerina Monte/DMS