Philippine foreign affairs department summons Chinese Ambassador over PLAN ship intrusion in Sulu Sea

The Philippine Navy frigate BRP Antonio Luna (foreground) and the patrol ship BRP Andres Bonifacio escort the landing platform dock BRP Tarlac during an exercise on November 16, 2021. (Photo: Philippine Navy)

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian over what the agency said was an “illegal incursion” by a vessel of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the Sulu Sea off the southern part of the country.

From January 29 to February 1, 2022, a PLAN electronic reconnaissance ship identified by the hull number 792 entered Philippine waters without permission, reaching the waters of Palawan’s Cuyo Group of Islands and Apo Island in Occidental Mindoro province, the DFA said in a statement published on Monday, March 14.

The Philippine Navy guided missile frigate BRP Antonio Luna challenged the PLAN ship, which alleged that it was exercising innocent passage.

However, the DFA said the PLAN ship’s movements did not follow a track that can be considered as continuous and expeditious, and the vessel lingered in the Sulu Sea for three days.

The Chinese ship also reportedly continued its activities in Philippine waters despite being repeatedly directed by Antonio Luna to leave Philippine waters immediately.

The DFA said that the Philippines abides by its international commitments and therefore recognises the right of innocent passage in accordance with Article 52 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). However, the agency said the actions of the PLAN ship did not constitute innocent passage and violated Philippine sovereignty.

In response to the incident, Acting Undersecretary Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro demanded that China respect Philippine territory and maritime jurisdiction, and to comply with its obligations under international law, particularly UNCLOS, and direct its vessels to desist from entering Philippine waters uninvited and without permission.

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