Chinese ships remain in Julian Felipe Reef, disperse to other West Philippine Sea areas
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

Chinese ships remain in Julian Felipe Reef, disperse to other West Philippine Sea areas

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - March 31, 2021 - 3:35pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese fleet suspected to be part of China's maritime militia remains in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef while some ships have been dispersed to other areas in the West Philippine Sea, according to the government.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) on Thursday confirmed that at least 44 Chinese maritime militia vessels remain moored, anchored and stationary at Julian Felipe Reef as of March 29.

The task force initially reported that 220 Chinese boats have been recorded in the area on March 7.

While the number of ships in Julian Felipe Reef decreased, the remaining part of the Chinese fleet has scattered in other features in the Kalayaan Island Group, which is under the jurisdiction of Palawan.

The NTF-WPS also reported that 115 Chinese militia ships have been located in Chigua (Kennan) Reef and 45 vessels in Pag-asa (Thitu) Island.

Another 50 vessels were dispersed in China's "big three" artificial islands — Panganiban (Mischief), Kagitingan (Fiery) and Zamora (Subi) Reefs.

Four vessels from China's People's Liberation Army Navy have also been spotted on Panganiban Reef, where Beijing appears to plan to install more buildings based on satellite images released in February.

Opposing the Chinese Embassy's earlier claim that the ships in Julian Felipe Reef were just "fishing vessels taking shelter," the NTF-WPS stood by its position that these are maritime militia.

"Their build-up and massing formation from Julian Felipe Reef to other areas of the Kalayaan Island Group is hazardous to navigation and safety of life at sea," the NTF-WPS said.

It added that the Chinese ships may be doing illicit activities at night and may cause irreparable damage to the marine environment in the area.

"Their swarming also poses a threat to the peaceful exercise of sovereign rights of the Philippines in its EEZ," the task force said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. had filed a diplomatic protest following the report on the presence of Chinese ships in Julian Felipe Reef.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines have since conducted three rounds of routine aerial and maritime sovereignty patrol missions in the area.

World powers such as the United States, European Union, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand have expressed support for the Philippines, calling on China to adhere to rules-based order consistent with international law, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 31, 2021 - 11:14am

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.

May 31, 2021 - 11:14am

The government should name and identify rocks and features in the Kalayaan Island Group to assert Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, a senator says Monday.

"The features we occupy in the KIG remain unnamed. Mapapalakas ang paggiit natin ng ating karapatan sa WPS kung malinaw ang pangalan, katangian, at sakop ng mga inaangkin nating teritoryo. Udyukin na ng DENR ang National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) para simulan ang pag-papangalan ng mga ito," Sen. Risa Hontiveros says in a statement. 

May 18, 2021 - 10:04pm

The Philippines protests China’s unilateral fishing ban in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says the Philippines does not recognize China’s fishing moratorium as it covers areas over which the country exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.

"China’s annual fishing moratorium extends far beyond China’s legitimate maritime entitlements under UNCLOS and is without basis under international law," the DFA says in a statement.

May 3, 2021 - 8:58am

The DFA protests the illegal presence of Chinese Coast Guard vessels in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and their belligerent actions against the Philippine Coast Guard. 

DFA also rejects the statement of Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin that China enjoys sovereignty over Panatag Shoal/Bajo de Masinloc. 

"China has no enforcement rights in these areas... The unauthorized and lingering presence of these vessels is a blatant infringement of Philippine sovereignty," the DFA says in a statement.

April 28, 2021 - 12:24pm

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. orders the filing of another diplomatic protest against China following the statement of a Chinese official on the Philippine Coast Guard's exercises in the West Philippine Sea.

"They can say what they want from the Chinese mainland; we continue to assert from our waters by right of international law what we won in The Hague. But we must not fail to protest. @DFAPHL have we fired off a diplomatic protest? Do it now," says Locsin on Twitter.

April 25, 2021 - 1:08pm

The Philippine Coast Guard sends BRP Malapascua and BRP Francisco Dagohoy (MMOV 5002) — a fisheries bureau vessel manned by PCG personnel — to Pagasa Island in the West Philippine Sea for maritime exercises.

Pagasa Island is in the Kalayaan Island Group of Palawan province.

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