Philippines Says 220 Chinese Ships Spotted On Contested Reef | South China Sea News
Manila expresses concern about overfishing, the destruction of the marine environment and the risks to the safety of navigation.
The Philippines expressed concern after spotting hundreds of Chinese military vessels on a reef claimed by the two countries in the South China Sea, but did not immediately protest.
A government task force overseeing the disputed region said on Saturday evening that around 220 ships, which are said to be crewed by members of the Chinese Maritime Militia, were seen docked at the Whitsun Reef on March 7.
The reef, which Manila calls Julian Felipe, is a shallow, boomerang-shaped coral region located about 175 nautical miles (324 kilometers) west of the city of Bataraza, in the western province of Palawan. from the Philippines.
The Western Philippine Sea National Task Force said the reef is indeed within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and “has the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources” there.
Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin asked if he would lodge a diplomatic protest against the presence of the ships, told a reporter on Twitter: “Only if the generals tell me. In my watch, foreign policy is the fist in the iron glove of the armed forces.
China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.
An international tribunal in 2016 struck down China’s claim to 90% of the South China Sea, but Beijing does not recognize the ruling.
China has built islands in disputed waters in recent years, installing airstrips on some of them.
Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Brunei all claim parts of the sea.
In January, the Philippines protested against a new Chinese law allowing its coast guard to shoot at foreign ships, calling it a “threat of war.”
The United States has repeatedly denounced what it called China’s attempts to intimidate its neighbors with divergent interests, while Beijing has criticized Washington for what it calls interference in its internal affairs.
The Philippine task force said the large number of Chinese boats spotted on the Pentecostal Reef is “of concern due to possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to shipping safety.” .
However, he added that the vessels were not fishing when they were sighted.
The body pledged to monitor the situation and “peacefully and proactively pursue its initiatives on environmental protection, food security and freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea.