MANILA — The presence of Chinese vessels in Philippine territory is an invasion, and President Duterte has the duty to call out China for this, former solicitor general Pilo Hilbay said Wednesday.

“Let me just point out na yung Pag-asa is a territory currently occupied by the Philippines and it has its own territorial sea. Kaya yung pagpasok ng mga Chinese vessels within the territory of Pag-asa is an invasion because those are territorial waters,” Hilbay explained.

“They’re no different from China going to Manila Bay because the Manila Bay is territorial waters from the coast of Luzon. Pag-asa is an island that has its own territorial sea. And the presence of Chinese vessels within the territorial sea is a form of invasion,” Hilbay added.

Hilbay and fellow Otso Diretso senatorial candidate Chel Diokno also called out the Duterte administration for deceiving the people when it said that it lodged a diplomatic protest against China when what it did was only to file a note verbale.

“I am not aware of any diplomatic protest that has been filed under this administration. So it’s almost three years now and we’ve been calling out the administration to file a diplomatic protest about multiple incursions of China into the West Philippine Sea and our territorial waters,” Hilbay said.

The administration should go beyond making a list of its grievances amid China’s continued aggression in Philippine waters, Hilbay and Diokno said.

“That is of course a violation of the UN Charter because that constitutes threat or use of force. That’s why hindi lang dapat note verbale lang yung fina-file ng ating Department of Foreign Affairs. It should be a loud and public diplomatic protest,” Hilbay said.

“I would say even the President has the formal constitutional obligation to call out China because their presence is a threat to our territorial integrity,” Hilbay added.

Hilbay criticized Malacanang’s spokesman Salvador Panelo for lying to the public about the diplomatic protest.

“How many have we filed in three years of the Duterte administration? Or, have we just been quiet all these years?” said Hilbay, Solicitor General during the Aquino administration, who was part of the team who won for the Philippines an arbitration case against China at The Hague,” Hilbay said.

Both Hilbay and Diokno said any diplomatic protest should be made public so that the people will know how this administration is fighting for the country’s rights against China’s aggression.

Recently, hundreds of Chinese vessels have been spotted off Pag-asa Island, which is within the county’s territory.

“What we need is not just a note verbale but an emphatic diplomatic protest. It’s our obligation to call out China because what it is doing is a threat to our territorial integrity,” Hilbay said.