Locsin orders filing of another diplomatic protest as 240 Chinese ships swarm West Philippine Sea

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Locsin orders filing of another diplomatic protest as 240 Chinese ships swarm West Philippine Sea
(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 31, 2021 this handout photo from the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) via the Philippine Communications Operations Office (PCOO) shows Chinese vessels anchored at Whitsun Reef, some 320 kilometres (175 nautical miles) west of Palawan Island in the South China Sea. The United States on April 7, 2021 warned China against what the Philippines and Taiwan see as increasingly aggressive moves, reminding Beijing of Washington's obligations to its partners.
AFP / Philippine Communications Operations Office / National Task Force-West Philippine Sea, Handout

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines' top diplomat ordered the filing of another diplomatic protest against China following reports that 240 Chinese vessels linger in the West Philippine Sea.

"[DFA] FIRE A DIPLOMATIC PROTEST NOW," Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted Wednesday morning, quoting an ABS-CBN News report.

Locsin, however, admitted that he has not yet received any update from the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) about the latest developments in the West Philippine Sea.

On Tuesday night, the NTF-WPS reiterated its demand on China to withdraw all its vessels within Philippine exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

"The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea denounces the continuous swarming in the WPS by Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) and Maritime Militia which are claimed by Chinese authorities to be ordinary fishing vessels," the statement read.

According to the task force, an estimated 240 Chinese vessels are scattered in several features in the territorial waters of Kalayaan, Palawan as of April 11.

Illegal fishing

Citing a report from the military's Western Command, the NTF-WPS said 136 Chinese vessels were seen at Burgos (Gaven) Reef, nine at Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, 65 at Chigua (McKennan) Reef, six at Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, four at Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, one at Likas (West York) Island, five at Kota (Loaita) Island and 11 at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

"A minimum estimate that each can catch one (1) ton of fish amounts to a conservative total of 240,000 kilos of fish illegally taken from Philippine waters every single day that the massed Chinese fishing vessels remain in the West Philippine Sea," the NTF-WPS said.

Such actions are considered illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, it added.

The NTF-WPS also reported that Chinese poachers were seen collecting giant clams near Pag-asa Island but quickly departed when approached by the Philippine Coast Guard.


In addition to the coast guard and maritime militia vessels spotted in the area during the government's latest sovereignty patrol, the NTF-WPS said.

Two Houbei class missile warships were located at Panganiban Reef, one Corvette class warship at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef and one navy tugboat at Zamora Reef were also observed.

The military also spotted two Chinese coast guard vessels near Pag-asa Island, as well as two People's Liberation Army Navy ships, three coast guard and 10 maritime militia vessels at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

"All these warships of the PLA Navy contribute to the militarization of the area," the NTTF-WPS said.

"The continuous swarming of Chinese vessels poses a threat to the safety of navigation, safety of life at sesa, and impedes the exclusive right of Filipinos to benefit from the marine wealth in the EEZ," it added.

Earlier this week, the Department of Foreign Affairs summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian to express "displeasure" over the lingering presence of Chinese ships in Julian Felipe Reef.

The DFA said both sides agreed to lower the tensions and "handle the issue diplomatically" but Beijing still refuses to withdraw its ships in the West Philippine Sea.

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