The Department of Foreign Affairs maintained that Ayungin Shoal is part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines, therefore giving Filipino fishermen the right to “take whatever they are due” while in the area.
This comes after the Philippine Coast Guard reported that a Chinese Coast Guard vessel (CCGV) drove away a Filipino fishing boat while in the area on January 9, just days after President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. went on a state visit to China from January 3 to 5.
“The department awaits the official reports from the military and our law enforcement agencies on the CCG’s actions to force Filipino fishermen in Ayungin Shoal to leave the area. The reports will serve as basis for diplomatic action on the incident,” the DFA said.
The department added that the Philippines is “entitled to exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the area, without any intervention from another country,” citing domestic and international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Hague ruling that China continues to ignore.
Ayungin Shoal incident
Over the weekend, the PCG said it is investigating the January 9 Ayungin shoal incident after Filipino fishing boat KEN-KEN baot captain Lito Al-os reported that CCGV 5204 drove them away while they were fishing in the vicinity waters.
The Chinese vessel maneuvered at around 800 yards and deployed a rigid hull inflatable boat, with personnel aboard gesturing the Filipinos to leave. The Chinese vessel “continued to shadow” until Boxall Reef.
The PCG said it immediately deployed additional coast guard vessels to strengthen its presence in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines’ permanent presence on Ayungin shoal was established in 1996, with BRP Sierra Madre.
Marcos, in a roundtable with Philippine media, admitted that what is needed are actions from the Chinese government, noting that the PCG only stay within Philippine waters.
“Let me clarify what we talked about with President Xi. It was very simple. I said we have to raise this level of discourse between the Philippines and China,” the president added.
He also noted that they already have a bilateral group working on South China Sea issues and he has already proposed to elevate the group to a higher level.
“I said, let’s bring it to a ministerial level and I will ask my foreign secretary to be part of it. I will ask my ambassador to China to be part of it and I guarantee you that if there is any decision that needs to be made, either of those gentlemen can pick up the telephone and talk to me, and within five minutes we will have a decision,” Marcos added partly in Filipino.
In a separate statement, fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) has urged the National Task Force West Philippine Sea to file a protest after the harassment of Chinese Coast Guard.
“The video filmed by the fishermen is enough to prove that Chinese presence in the area and the intimidation of the Chinese Coast Guard of Filipinos in our own waters are still prevalent. This can be used as a strong basis for the Philippines to file a diplomatic protest against the Chinese government,” PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson Fernando Hicap said in a statement over the weekend.