Sun, 11 Apr 2021

Manila [Philippines], April 8 (ANI): Philippines has threatened to expel a Chinese diplomatic spokesman in Manila in the latest twist of an intensifying row with the superpower over territory in the South China Sea.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the ongoing row with the Philippines and China regarding the 220 fishing boats found at the Whitsun Reef is reported to be manned by the Chinese maritime militia.

The Defence and Foreign Affairs ministries in the Philippines have been up in arms for a fortnight over the presence of 220 fishing boats suspected to be manned by Chinese maritime militia at Whitsun Reef, with statements flying back and forth over the alleged incursion into the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teddy Locsin Jnr said on Wednesday he was "firing off another diplomatic protest" to China's embassy and would continue objecting "every day until the last one's gone like it should be by now if it is really fishing".

Since the discovery of the Chinese flotilla last month, Philippines navy has been patrolling near the disputed reef in Spratly Island. However, China has rejected any unlawful activity, saying they are merely fishing boats.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the Chinese government represented an utter disregard for international law and revealed China's "intent to further occupy features in the West Philippine Sea".

Philippine fishing federation Pamalakaya on Wednesday also slammed the presence of the Chinese ships at the reef and China's claims they were sheltering from bad weather.

"It's been a month of perfectly fair weather and yet these Chinese vessels purportedly seeking shelter from rough seas are still in our waters," Philippines Fishing Federation said. "We demand China get out of Philippine waters as they have no right to overstay here," the federation added.

Anger spreads in Manila after a Chinese embassy official publically labelled Lorenzana's comments on the dispute as "unprofessional" and, in a development that would further escalate the standoff, a Philippine foreign affairs official indicated the government was considering throwing him out, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.

"Normally, this is part of the range of diplomatic courses of actions, but I have no confirmation yet," Foreign Affairs Executive Director Ivy Banzon-Abalos said.

Even after such an intensifying row, China hasn't shown any sign of relocation of the vessels. Instead, they have accused the Philippines of using a 2016 international tribunal ruling, which deprived China of certain outcrops of territorial-generating status, the ruling from the permanent court of arbitration effectively punches holes in China's all-encompassing "nine-dash" line that stretches deep into the South China Sea, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.

The 2016 International Tribunal Ruling denies China of its thousand years of fishing rights in the area.

"The South China Sea arbitral ruling is illegal and ineffective," China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

"We urge the Philippine side to objectively and rationally view the matter, stop hyping up and stop bringing negative influence to the South China Sea situation," he further said.

There was another warning from the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, The Global Times, whose editor Hu Xijin said in a video on its website that the Philippine military "should not act rashly other than making some noise". Also adding, "Otherwise, China will definitely give a strong response," he said.

The Philippines has been supported by the United States in its stance on the Chinese vessels and Australia's ambassador in Manila, Steven Robinson, also said last week he was "concerned about any destabilising actions that could provoke an escalation in the South China Sea". (ANI)

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