PH not giving up Bajo de Masinloc

 Despite China’s assertions that Bajo de Masinloc is part of China’s “inherent territory”, Malacañang on Tuesday maintained that the Philippines has “full sovereignty” over one of the many disputed maritime features in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar made this statement after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China has sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc and its adjacent waters “as well as sovereign rights and jurisdiction over relevant waters.”

“The Philippine position is we continue to exercise full sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc and its territorial sea, as well as sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the surrounding EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and continental shelf,” Andanar said in a press statement.

Over the weekend, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported that a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) ship conducted a “close distance maneuvering” towards one of its ships, BRP Malabrigo, in Bajo de Masinloc on March 2, 2022.

The PCG said the incident is “a clear violation of the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).”

PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu said the incident was the fourth reported close distance maneuvering incident involving CCG vessels in Bajo de Masinloc.

The first incident of close distance maneuvering involving a CCG vessel was reported on May 19, 2021 and the second and third ones happened on June 1 and 2, 2021.

On Monday, Wang justified the CCG’s action by maintaining that the disputed shoal is “China’s inherent territory.”

“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,” Wang said, referring to a moniker used by China to refer to Bajo de Masinloc.

The Philippines lost control over the shoal after a standoff with China in 2012.

Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, is located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales, and is within the country’s 200-nautical mile EEZ.

On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won the arbitration case it lodged against China after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim that covers nearly the entire South China Sea.

China refused to acknowledge the arbitral ruling and instead ramped up its militarization.

Apart from the Philippines and China, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam are also laying claim to parts of the contested sea. (PNA)