DFA Chief: China also filed diplomatic protests vs. PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 2) — China had filed diplomatic protests to the Philippines over the disputed South China Sea, but Foreign Secretary  Alan Cayetano would not provide details on these.

At his pre-departure briefing for South Korea on Thursday, Cayetano confirmed that the Philippines had sent a note verbale "several times" to China over its activities in the contested waters, and that China had done the same. 

A note verbale is a diplomatic note raising issues of concern to the recipient country.

Asked if China reacted to the note verbales the government filed, Cayetano said, "Yes, of course. Sila din, nag-file several times. May reaction po tayo."

[Translation: They too, have filed several times. We also reacted.]

The Foreign Affairs Chief, however, did not outline what incidents were covered in the protests filed by China or what became of the exchange.

Earlier reports said the Duterte government filed its first note verbale to China a week ago, citing the installation of missile systems on artificial islands in the Spratlys, and the Chinese Navy's harassment of Filipino troops on Ayungin Shoal off Palawan.

Malacañang also confirmed that China filed several diplomatic protests, including a note verbale, and that the Philippines reacted to them.

"That's a factual report," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said, referring to Cayetano's statement, in a text message to CNN Philippines.

Cayetano repeated his explanation that a protest can either be expressed or implied, and either written or verbal.  

"That's what I'm saying nga: may note verbale 'yan, mayroong Bilateral Consultative Mechanism, mayroong leader-to-leader: President Xi and President Duterte," he clarified.

Cayetano said the Philippines is doing a combination of diplomatic approaches to ensure effectivity.

"Because we want to be effective. So every situation, tinitignan natin kung ano mas effective (we're figuring out which is more effective) to influence their behavior," he said.

The Secretary earlier stressed that the government cannot divulge the contents of all diplomatic negotiations to protect national interest.

China's continuing activities in contested areas  in the South China Sea prompted the Philippines to file 'dozens' of protests against Beijing. China refuses to acknowledge  an international tribunal's ruling favoring the Philippines' claims over areas within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the country.

Other claimants in the maritime dispute are Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos contributed to this report.