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Chinese vessels in Juan Felipe Reef must go, Manila tells Beijing
This March 22, 2021 aerial photo shows Chinese vessels still present in the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea, well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
Armed Forces of the Philippines

Chinese vessels in Juan Felipe Reef must go, Manila tells Beijing

(Philstar.com) - March 23, 2021 - 8:39pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines on Tuesday demanded the withdrawal of Chinese vessels from a reef within its exclusive economic zone, saying Beijing's continued "infringements and tolerance thereof" run counter to its commitments before the international community. 

Manila filed a diplomatic protest on March 21 after 220 Chinese ships were seen in the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in the West Philippine Sea. 

The coral reef is located northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs (Union Reefs), approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza in the Palawan island.

In a statement, the foreign affairs department said the presence of Chinese ships there as well as other activities in the past "blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction."

"The Philippines has been assiduously protesting the illegal and lingering (swarming) presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime assets in the said areas," the agency said in a statement.

China has practically ignored the diplomatic protests filed by the Philippines as it continued its aggressiveness over the disputed waters despite the pandemic still raging.

An official spokesperson also dismissed as speculation that the vessels in the reef are maritime militia boats, and only fishing vessels.

Manila urged Beijing to honor its obligations as state party to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to abide by the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated its claims, which it has also rejected.

Apart from the country's top diplomat, defense chief Delfin Lorenzana has called the presence of the Chinese ships an "incursion" and a "clear provocative action of militarizing the area." — Christian Deiparine with reports from Patricia Lourdes Viray

DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE KALAYAAN GROUP OF ISLANDS PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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