MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has filed another diplomatic protest against China, in light of reports that 100 Chinese vessels swarmed Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“Diplomatic protest fired off,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted on Wednesday after National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. sought the filing of a protest over the reported presence of at least 113 Chinese vessels around Pag-asa Island on July 24.
Pag-asa is the biggest Philippine island in the contested South China Sea.
Sen. Emmanuel Joel Villanueva however urged Locsin to disclose the contents of the protest, especially that Esperon raised the alarm on the threats to national security.
In a similar incident in February, dozens of Chinese vessels also swarmed Pag-asa Island.
Villanueva considered this as China’s dry run in fully claiming Pag-asa.
“It could be to prevent you from patrolling the area or it could be a dry run, [there are] so many possibilities,” he told reporters in a news forum.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the encircling of Pag-asa Island by Chinese vessels is part of China’s “cabbage strategy” to claim islands and even the open waters.
“Chinese military’s ‘cabbage strategy’ [is] now fully operational after it was announced and launched at least five years ago,” Lacson said on Twitter.
Maj. Gen. Zhang Zhaozhong, a Chinese military expert, said that in “recovering” the Huangyan (Scarborough) Island from Philippine control, China resorted to “cabbage strategy” wherein an island is “wrapped layer by layer like a cabbage”—or simply, being surrounded by layers of coast guard threats.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto welcomed the filing of the protest.
“We may be divided on many issues, but we are united on this one,” he said.
“The filing of the diplomatic protest on the reported swarming of Chinese ships on Filipino fisherfolk is a welcome development,” Villanueva said. “Pag-asa Island is Philippine territory. Basic courtesy and propriety dictate that one asks permission to pass through our waters.”
Furthermore, Esperon assured that the Philippine Coast Guard continues to patrol the disputed area.
He however, admitted that China has the “positional advantage” in disputed islands, but Manila would also boost its presence in Philippine-held islands.
The country must continue to build its capabilities, Esperon further said, “In a short while we will have our own equipment… all we have to do now is to increase our coast guard and fisher vessels,” the security official added.
Esperon called on China to seek first diplomatic clearance when its vessels or carriers pass through Philippine territory.
“Katok-katok lang, pasabi lang (At least inform us), after all, we should be dealing as friends,” he said, referring to the reported crossing of Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning through Sibutu Strait in Sulu. (RAF/LON)
Screenshot from Teddy Locsin Jr. Twitter account (@teddyboylocsin)