MANILA, March 29 (Reuters) – The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest over a Chinese Coast Guard vessel engaging in “close distance maneuvering” that heightened a risk of collision in the disputed South China Sea, Manila’s national security adviser said on Tuesday. It is the latest of more than 200 diplomatic protests that the Southeast Asian country has filed against China, which claims large swathes of the South China Sea and continues to assert its presence in the strategic waterway. “There may be counter-claims but we, as a nation, will stand by our established sovereign rights and sovereignty over the area,” Hermogenes Esperon, the country’s top security adviser, told reporters. “We’ve been saying that’s part of our territory,” he said, referring to the Scarborough Shoal where the encounter occurred. The Philippine Coast Guard on Sunday reported a “close distance maneuvering” incident, a violation of international regulations to prevent collisions at sea, with a Chinese vessel in the Scarborough Shoal located 124 nautical miles northwest of the Philippines’ mainland. It was the fourth such incident in 10 months. China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Late on = Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China has sovereign rights over the shoal. An international arbitration ruling in the Hague in 2016 invalidated Beijing’s claims to the waterway, through which about $3 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes annually.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)
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