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Leave foreign affairs to DFA, Locsin says after Roque's Felipe Reef comments

International diplomacy should be left exclusively to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on Tuesday hours after presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said that the Julian Felipe Reef was beyond the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

On Twitter, Locsin reacted to UP Law Professor Jay Batongbacal's tweet that Roque's remarks on the reef being too far away and outside the EEZ ran counter to the statements and diplomatic protests lodged by the DFA for the Philippines over the past weeks.



"My God just came in on a very early flight; all this was settled last night: somebody dropped the ball of possession; later he picked up the paper of maritime features not generating their own EEZ just in case we drop the ball of possession yet again and lose our EEZ. Now this?" Locsin said.

Locsin and Roque on Monday night appeared on television with President Rodrigo Duterte in which the officials discussed how the Philippines lost possession of Scarborough Shoal under the Aquino administration.

As regards the Julian Felipe Reef, the DFA in April filed protests and issued statements against the proliferation of Chinese vessels in the area. It said the reef was in the Kalayaan group and was inside the EEZ

"This is my last warning. When it comes to foreign affairs the Department of Foreign Affairs has the exclusive remit," Locsin said.

"I don’t come from diplomacy; I come from a life that settled the hash of a lotta people who talked tough and ended up biting dirt. I don’t talk, I deal," he added.

Roque in his news briefing said that the Julian Felipe Reef was too far away to be considered within the Philippines' EEZ.

"Hindi po yan kabahagi ng ating EEZ, yung Julian Felipe. Labas po yan, ganyan po kalayo yan," Roque said.

[Julian Felipe is not part of our EEZ. It's outside. That's how far it is.]

Roque made the remark given the continued presence of Chinese vessels in waters off the reef despite and persistent criticisms from the opposition.

“We're making a big thing out of the fact, when that area was never under our possession,” Roque said.

“Ang talagang nag-aagawan sa Julian Felipe, Vietnam at China [The ones that are really in dispute over Julian Felipe Reef are Vietnam and China],” he added.

'We never abandoned our claim'

In a statement sent later in the day, Roque reiterated that the Philippines "never abandoned" its claims over Julian Felipe Reef which is under Kalayaan Group of Islands as stated under Presidential Decree 1596 issued in 1978 during former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

But Roque further claimed that the reef also formed part of the territorial sea currently occupied by China and Vietnam.

"The basis of our claim is that while Julian Felipe Reef is indeed within our 200 nautical miles of EEZ, it nonetheless forms part of the territorial sea generated by two High Tide Elevations (HTEs) currently occupied by China (Mckennan) and Vietnam (Sin Cowe)," said Roque.

"Per the 2016 SCS Arbitral Award, these HTEs generate a Territorial Sea, which is prior to an EEZ under the UNCLOS," he added.

Roque further pointed out that the Reef should be "delimited under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) given the overlaps of maritime zones."

The Palace official, nonetheless, explained that it is still the country's interest to pursue its claims in the disputed waters "through diplomacy or by submitting it to the jurisdiction of International Court of Justice." —NB, GMA News