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PHL to protest Chinese ships near Ayungin Shoal

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has ordered the filing of another diplomatic protest against China, this time over the presence of its vessels near Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

Locsin, who is part of President Rodrigo Duterte's delegation in Russia, gave the order after newly appointed Armed Forces chief Lieutenant General Noel Clement said they have reported the unannounced entry of Chinese vessels near Ayungin Shoal to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for appropriate diplomatic action.

In a September 26 report, the the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said the presence of the China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels at the Ayungin and Panatag Shoals highlighted how their access to newly-built port facilities on artificial islands in the Spratlys allowed then to sustain such deployments.

AMTI had identified 14 CCG vessels broadcasting automatic identification system (AIS) signals while patrolling the West Philippine Sea features over the last year.

CCG ships did not usually open their automatic identification systems (AIS) during patrols, but they frequently broadcast their presence in these areas.

The Philippines had repeatedly protested the incursion of Chinese ships in its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.

China does not recognize the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing's historical claims to nearly the entire South China Sea, a part of which Manila refers to as the West Philippine Sea, following a lawsuit filed by the Philippines.

Duterte told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during their bilateral meeting in Beijing on August 29 that the arbitral award was “final, binding and not subject to appeal.”

Xi rejected Duterte’s position even as both leaders agreed that a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea should be formulated and to continue to dialogue peacefully in resolving the conflict.

The two countries also agreed to exercise self-restraint and respect for freedom of navigation and overflight in the disputed waters. —KBK, GMA News