Over 200 Chinese militia ships spotted in West Philippine Sea

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Over 200 Chinese militia ships spotted in West Philippine Sea
This March 7, 2021 photo shows Chinese maritime militia ships moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

MANILA, Philippines — Around 220 Chinese fishing vessels, believed to be part of China's maritime militia, have been located within the country's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said it has received a report from the Philippine Coast Guard about the presence of Chinese vessels seen in line formation at the Whitsun or Julian Felipe Reef on March 7.

The reef is located northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs about 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.

"Despite clear weather at the time, the Chinese vessels massed at the reef showed no actual fishing activities and had their full white lights turned on during night time," the NTF-WPS said in a statement released Saturday.

The task force expressed concern as the presence of Chinese vessels in the area entails possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment.

It also stressed that the Philippines has "the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources which encompass both living resources, such as fish, and non-living resources such as oil and natural gas."

With this latest development, the NTF-WPS assured the public that the government will continue to monitor the situation.

"In consonance with the Philippine commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Government shall continue to peacefully and proactively pursue its initiatives on environmental protection, food security and freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea as part of its overall national security policy," the task force said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., meanwhile, said he is waiting for an order to "fire" a diplomatic protest from National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

"Still waiting for the order to fire. I listen only to Generals; never media or an NTF press release which amounts to nothing. Only a shot from DFA counts," Locsin tweeted Sunday morning.

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