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China stresses sovereignty over Panatag Shoal

China on Monday maintained that it has sovereign rights over Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal after the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported a “close distance maneuvering” incident involving a Chinese vessel in the area.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin made the remark in a press conference following a PCG report that on March 2, Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel (3305) moved approximately 21 yards towards BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402) in the waters of Panatag Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc.

“Huangyan Dao is China’s inherent territory. China has sovereignty over Huangyan Dao and its adjacent waters as well as sovereign rights and jurisdiction over relevant waters,” Wang said, referring to the Chinese moniker for Panatag Shoal.

Wang then urged the PCG to “earnestly respect” China’s claim to the waters.

“We hope that the Philippine ships will earnestly respect China’s sovereignty and rights and interests, abide by China’s domestic law and international law, and avoid interfering with the patrol and law enforcement of the China Coast Guard in the above-mentioned waters,” he said.

In response, Malacañang on Tuesday maintained that the Philippines "continues to exercise full sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc and its territorial sea, as well as sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the surrounding exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf."

According to PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu, the recent incident was the fourth reported close distance maneuvering incident involving CCG vessels in the Panatag Shoal vicinity.

The Philippine government sued China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2013. The court ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016 when it junked China's nine-dash claim over the South China Sea.

In the same ruling, the court ruled that the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, and Recto (Reed) Bank are within the Philippines' EEZ.

The court also deemed Panatag Shoal as a common fishing ground and outlawed China's aggression toward Filipino fishermen there.

Beijing does not recognize the ruling. 

Just this month, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) summoned Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian to protest the Chinese Navy's incursion into the Sulu Sea from January 29 to February 1, 2022.

DFA Acting Undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro then stressed that the passage of China's navy ship in Philippine waters was illegal and violated the country's sovereign rights.

However, the Chinese government defended the three-day presence of their ship in the Sulu Sea, saying it was consistent with international laws. —with a report from Llanesca Panti/KBK/VBL, GMA News