Philippines summons Chinese ambassador over South China Sea dispute

The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday that it had summoned Chinese ambassador to Manila, Huang Xilian, over illegal lingering presence of Chinese vessels in Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea.

In a statement, the department said it reiterated its firm demand for the withdrawal of Chinese ships from within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

About 220 Chinese ships were sighted in Whitsun Reef in early March and while the number of ships have dwindled, they have remained in the area.

Acting Under Secretary Elizabeth Buensuceso reminded Huang that a ruling of the United Nations Tribunal in July 2016 had invalidated its expansive claim in the South China Sea.

China was also reminded of “proper decorum and manners in the conduct of their duties as guests of the Philippines’’ following its remarks against Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

In a statement early April, the Chinese embassy denounced as “unprofessional’’ Lorenzana’s called for China’s ships to immediately leave the reef because the weather had been clear.

“Both sides affirmed the use of peaceful settlement of disputes in addressing their differences on the South China Sea issue,’’ the department said.

Nations such as the U.S., Japan, Australia, Britain and New Zealand have called on China to leave the reef and cease elevating tensions in the area.(dpa/NAN)