The Philippines government has claimed that around 220 Chinese boats have been spotted at a reef in the South China Sea waters controlled by Manila. It urged China to recall the boats saying the presence of the vessels violated Manila’s maritime rights by encroaching into the Philippines’ sovereign territory.
According to the Philippines coast guard, the boats are believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel. The boats were spotted on March 7 at the Whitsun Reef, which Manila calls the Julian Felipe Reef. In a strong-worded statement, Philippines Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana warned of appropriate actions not limited to filing diplomatic protests if the boats were not withdrawn. It called on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats.
The Philippine military spokesman Marine Major General Edgard Arevalo said that it had conducted air and maritime patrols in the South China Sea to further validate the incursion report. A Philippine cross-government task force said yesterday that the vessels’ presence in the area raises concern about overfishing and the destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to safe navigation.