Beijing has no business telling Manila to stop Coast Guard drills in the West Philippine Sea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, insisiting "Atin 'yan (It's ours)."
Lorenzana was responding to a statement from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, accusing the Philippines of "complicating" the situation in an area wherein China has "sovereignty."
"They have no authority or legal basis to prevent us from conducting these exercises within the WPS. Atin Yan," Lorenzana told reporters.
"The Arbitral award has categorically stated that the Chinese claim bounded by their so-called nine dash line according their 'historical right' has no basis in fact. Therefore, it is they who are encroaching and should desist and leave," he said.
China has long defied a 2016 ruling by the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration that invalidated its vast sea claims. Manila brought forth the legal challenge in 2012 after Chinese ships displaced Filipino fishermen from Scarborough Shoal and chased a Filipino survey ship from Recto Bank.
At least nine Chinese ships remain in the area as of April 28, said National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. They never left despite daily diplomatic protests and summons to the Chinese Ambassador in Manila.
WHAT WENT BEFORE:
China "enjoys sovereignty over Nansha Islands including Zhongye Island and Zhongsha Islands including Huangyan Island and their adjacent waters, and exercises jurisdiction in relevant waters," Wang had said in his daily remarks.
He was referring to China's name for the Kalayaan Group of Islands or Spratlys. Beijing has insisted on its claim despite losing to Manila before the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration. China's historical claim based on its so-called nine-dash line map is invalid, the court said.
"We urge the relevant side to respect China's sovereignty and rights and interests, and stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes," Wang told reporters.
Tensions between Manila and Beijing flared up in early April after the Filipino military spotted dozens of Chinese militia and fishing vessels off Julian Felipe (Whitsun) reef.
China has refused to pull out its ships despite daily diplomatic protests and summons on its ambassador to Manila.
China is claiming almost the entire South China Sea, overlapping with claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia. Some $3.4 million worth of trade passes through the disputed waters annually and Washington has expressed concern over Beijing's actions in the region.