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Chinese ships mooring in Julian Felipe Reef since December 2020 — report

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Chinese ships mooring in Julian Felipe Reef since December 2020 â report
This handout satellite imagery taken on March 23, 2021 and received on March 25 from Maxar Technologies shows Chinese vessels anchored at the Whitsun Reef, around 320 kilometres (175 nautical miles) west of Bataraza in Palawan in the South China Sea. Chinese vessels gathered near a disputed reef in the South China Sea are "fishing boats" sheltering from poor weather, the foreign ministry said March 22, a day after the Philippines described their presence as an incursion.
AFP / Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies, Handout

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government recently confirmed that hundreds of Chinese vessels have been moored in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef but the fleet has been arriving in the area since December, according to a report.

Satellite images released by US-based Simularity showed that a large number of Chinese ships have been "mooring, arriving and departing" at the coral reef since mid-December last year.

"Between March 23-24, 2021, Simularity counted approximately 200 vessels at Whitsun Reef, of which most are probable fishing vessels, and a few are probable Chinese Coast Guard vessels," the 20-page report read.

Simularity, a software company that checks for new satellite imagery of the South China Sea every week, documented the activity of Chinese ships on Julian Felipe Reef, which is well within Philippine exclusive economic zone.

Satellite images from December 2020 showed supposed fishing ships moored together with a width of up to 200 meters, making fishing impossible.

"The number of moored ships dips briefly in early February, but the number of ships arriving and departing is still substantial," Simularity reported.

On Sunday night, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. filed a diplomatic protest after the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea confirmed that 220 Chinese ships, believed to be part of Beijing's maritime militia, have been sighted in Julian Felipe Reef on March 7.

The West Philippine Sea is a part of the South China Sea that falls within Manila's exclusive economic zone.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines conducted a patrol afterwards and confirmed on Monday that at least 183 Chinese boats are still present in the area.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila, however, insisted that the ships were just "taking shelter" in the area and that no maritime militia was involved.

A few days after lodging a diplomatic protest, the Department of Foreign Affairs released a statement calling on Beijing to promptly withdraw its vessels in the area.

"We reiterate that the continued deployment, lingering presence and activities of Chinese vessels in Philippine maritime zones blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction," the DFA said in a statement released March 23. — satellite images from European Space Agency — produced from ESA remote sensing data

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: February 28, 2022 - 10:29am

The United States Navy's Nimitz-class nuclear powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis continues underway in the South China Sea.

The US Pacific Command just reported that it has received "cargo" from support ship USNS Rainier in the disputed waters.

February 28, 2022 - 10:29am

Around 68 foreign vessels were near Julian Felipe Reef and 39 near Union Banks on February 17, satellite image show.

Liz Derr, CEO of the geospatial data provider Simularity, says this at a Stratebase ADR-hosted conference.

In March 2021, over 200 Chinese vessels were sighted near the reef.  — report from News5/Marianne Enriquez

November 22, 2021 - 3:54pm

President Rodrigo Duterte condemns the latest flare-up in the disputed South China Sea after Chinese coastguard ships fired water cannon at Filipino boats. 

"We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view with grave concern other similar developments," Duterte tells the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, using the Filipino name for the shoal. 

"This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership." — AFP

November 22, 2021 - 8:41am

The European Union expresses "strong opposition" against China's unilateral actions in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

This statement comes after Chinese coast guard ships blocked and water cannoned Philippine boats transporting supplies to military personnel stationed at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

"In this context, the European Union recalls the Arbitration Award rendered under UNCLOS on 12 July 2016, which found that Second Thomas Shoal lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf," the EU says in a statement.

July 14, 2021 - 8:49am

Geospatial imagery and analysis firm Simularity stands behind its report on ships dumping raw sewage in the West Philippine Sea, adding a stock photo used in its presentation was not used in its analysis.

"We welcome the news that Philippine agencies are validating our research and results. It is all reproducible, based on publicly available sources, well understood algorithms, and the approach and interpretation are validated by readily available scientific papers, links to which you can find in our report," it says.

July 13, 2021 - 2:44pm

The Department of Environemnt and Natural Resources says it will coordinate with the Philippine Coast Guard and the Department of National Defense "on the authenticity of the allegation" that Chinese ships have been dumping raw waste in areas of the West Philippine Sea, which satellite imaging firm Simularity said has been causing damage to coral reefs in the Spratlys.

"After that, we will be seeking for the attention of the Chinese government through our Department of Foreign Affairs," Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, DENR spokesperson, says.

"We will also validate if indeed these are Chinese vessels," he also says.

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