“We view with grave concern the presence of 220 Chinese militia boats in the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea,” said the Philippine Defense Secretary.
More than 200 Chinese vessels have recently been spotted on Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in the West Philippine Sea. This has prompted a reaction from the Philippine government as officials accused China of incursion.
National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana issued a statement, asking China to “stop this incursion,” emphasizing that the country is committed to upholding its sovereign rights.
Sec. Lorenzana said:
“We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory. We are committed to uphold our sovereign rights over the WPS.”
“We view with grave concern the presence of 220 Chinese militia boats in the Julian Felipe Reef (Union Reef) in the West Philippine Sea,” added the official. “This is a clear provocative action of militarizing the area. These are territories well within Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS) where Filipinos have the sole right to resources under international law and the 2016 arbitral ruling.”
The Philippines has since filed a diplomatic protest last Sunday, March 21.
Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying defended that the ships were merely shipping vessels that sought shelter because of bad weather conditions.
“Recently, due to the sea conditions, some Chinese fishing boats have taken shelter from the wind near the Whitsun Reef. I think it is very normal and hope all parties can look at it rationally,” she said during a briefing.
In a report dated March 22, Philippine Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana told the media:
“They’re still there and we’re counting carefully.”
Maritime expert Dr. Jay Batongbacal also remarked:
“We should continuously watch what they are doing there, and report every move. We should ask allies and friends to do the same, and place China’s activities there under close scrutiny , and ask them to similarly report what they see especially if it could harm mutual interests.”
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