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

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
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

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.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 28, 2023 - 12:01pm

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.

September 28, 2023 - 12:01pm

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources conducts an aerial maritime inspection over Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc on Thursday, according to a report of PTV.

PTV says BFAR is checking if the southeast portion of Bajo de Mansinloc remains free from illegal and hazardous floating barriers.

Earlier this week, the Philippine Coast removed the chains surrounding the entrance of Bajo de Masinloc installed by the China Coast Guard. — PTV

September 25, 2023 - 3:02pm

The National Security Council condemns the installation of the floating barriers of the China Coast Guard in Bajo de Masinloc, PTV reports on Monday.

“It ruled categorically that such action by the PRC violated the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen in the shoal who have been fishing there for centuries," NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya says.

"Any State that prevents them from doing artisanal fishing there violates UNCLOS and international law, in general,” he adds.

September 22, 2023 - 2:33pm

PTV reports that BRP Antonio Luna of the Philippine Navy and HMCS Ottawa of the Royal Canadian Navy conducted a joint sail in the West Philippine Sea on Sept. 21.

“The joint sail is part of the Philippine Navy's regular engagements with its partners in the Philippines' maritime zones. Bravo Zulu to all the personnel of both ships and those who planned this activity," Ltc Enrico Gil Ileto, Public Affairs AFP chief says.


July 21, 2023 - 3:49pm

Ahead of the second State of the Nation Address of President Ferdinand Marcis Jr, the descendants of the Bai sa Condor and  Anta sa Tebouk, on behalf of the Iranun in the Philippines composed of 16 sultans, formally declares ownership of the  Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoals as patrimony from their ancestors. 

The declaration of ownership is led by Sultan Tomas Reyes Cabili, Jr. as part of the advocacy of the Tomas Ll. Cabili  Foundation (TLC Foundation).

"TLC Foundation is doing this for our country’s sake as a whole on our claim for what is ours. Not just for our Muslim brothers and the Moro Origins of Mindanao (IRANUN), BUT for all the Filipinos - and the next generations to come. All the Philippines’ descendants of the Iranunis unfurling the historical dimension of the Spratlys and the ScarboroughShoals to strengthen the Philippines' claim on them and complement the theoretical frameworks already presented in the United Nations," Cabili says.

July 5, 2023 - 10:47am

Raymond Powell, project lead at the Gordion Knot Center for National Security Innovation, tweets that China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels "maneuvered dangerously close" to two Philippine Coast Guard ships on a resupply mission at Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea last week.

In a tweet, Powell identifies the ships as BRP Malabrigo and BRP Malapascua. He says these were escorting a small-boat resupply mission to the Philippines' outpost aboard BRP Sierra Madre and were met by an armada of CCG and militia ships, as well as a possible navy vessel.

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