Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Philippine government lodged a diplomatic protest against China for attempting to disrupt its troops’ resupply mission in the West Philippine Sea, including the deployment of a military-grade laser against a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship, inflicting temporary blindness to its crew.

In a note verbale filed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) at the Chinese Embassy in Manila on Tuesday, February 15, the Philippines “condemned the shadowing, harassment, dangerous maneuvers, directing of military-grade laser light, and illegal radio challenges” by China Coast Guard (CCG).

DFA also said that this aggressions “constituted a threat to Philippine sovereignty and security as a state, and are infringements of its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zone,” especially as it closely follows the recent bilateral talks between the two countries.

“These acts of aggression by China are disturbing and disappointing as it closely follows the state visit to China of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in early January during which he and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to manage maritime differences through diplomacy and dialogue,” Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Teresita Daza said in a statement.

DFA asserted that the mission undertaken by PCG vessel BRP Malapascua is a legitimate operation within the Philippines exclusive economic zone (EZZ) and continental shelf following the UNCLOS and the 2016 Hague Ruling.

“China does not have law enforcement rights or powers in and around Ayungin Shoal or any part of the Philippine EEZ,” she said.

“We call on China to comply with its obligations under international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS and the 2016 Award in the South China Sea Arbitration and direct its vessels to cease and desist from its aggressive activities against Philippine vessels,” she added.

This has been the 8th diplomatic protest the Philippine government lodged before the Chinese Embassy this 2023, the DFA undercored.

International Support
The United States has expressed its support to the Philipines through a statement released by US State Department spokesperson Ned Price calling the actions of China as “provocative and unsafe”

“The United States stands with our Philippine allies in the face of the People’s Republic of China Coast Guard’s reported use of laser devices against the crew of a Philippine Coast Guard ship on February 6 in the South China Sea,” he said.

“The dangerous operational behavior directly threatens regional peace and stability, infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law, and undermines the rules-based international order,” Price added.

Meanwhile, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu expressed concern over China’s “unsafe and intimidatory” action.

“We continue to call for peace, stability and respect for international law in the South China Sea, a vital international waterway,” she said in a Tweet.