South China Sea backlash as Philippines protests ‘provocative acts’ of Beijing

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Manilla’s foreign ministry shared worrying allegations on Twitter this Wednesday claiming that several Chinese vessels had acted with unlawful virulence in the waters over and around the Philippines. The Filipino Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it protested the “unlawful issuance of over 200 radio challenges, sounding of sirens, and blowing of horns by Chinese government vessels” against Philippine authorities conducting routine patrols in the West Philippine Sea.

“These provocative acts threaten the peace, good order, and security of the South China Sea and run contrary to China’s obligations under international law,” the DFA wrote on Twitter.

It did not specify over what time period the challenges took place.

The Philippines has already filed more than 80 similar diplomatic protests against China since its leader Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016, as reported by Reuters.

However, Mr Duterte has pursued a rapprochement with Beijing in exchange for pledges of billions of dollars of loans, aid and investment, much of which have yet to materialise.

The presence of 100 Chinese ships in waters claimed by Manila was also disputed in September.

“File now our protest on China’s incessant & unlawful restriction of Filipino fishermen from conducting legitimate fishing activities in Bajo de Masinloc,” said Teodoro Locsin Jr, the Filipino foreign secretary, using the Philippine name for the Scarborough Shoal.

Manila considers Scarborough Shoal, a reef located 118 nautical miles (218.5 km) west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, to be within its 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but China disagrees.

Earlier in October, Malaysia summoned China’s ambassador to protest against the “presence and activities” of Chinese vessels in Kuala Lumpur’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea off the island of Borneo, as reported by Al Jazeera.

“Malaysia’s consistent position and actions are based on international law, in defence of our sovereignty and sovereign rights in our waters,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

“Malaysia had also protested against the previous encroachments by other foreign vessels in our waters.”

China claims sovereignty over vast swathes of the South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have lodged competing claims for some or all of the islands.

In 2016, an international tribunal invalidated China’s expansive claim in the strategic waterway where about $3 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes annually.

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In the following years, Beijing has stepped up its activities in the disputed waters, building artificial islands, setting up military outposts on rocky outcrops and islets and deploying vast fishing fleets and ships from its maritime militia.

According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative China has 27 outposts in the disputed waters and also controls Scarborough Shoal, which it seized from the Philippines in 2012.

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