287 Chinese militia ships scattered across West Philippine Sea â task force
This undated photo shows a Philippine Coast Guard vessel patrolling in the West Philippine Sea
AFP/Ted Aljibe

287 Chinese militia ships scattered across West Philippine Sea — task force

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - May 12, 2021 - 2:08pm

MANILA, Philippines — A total of 287 Chinese maritime militia ships have been sighted over various features near the Municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan, both within and outside the Philippine exclusive economic zone, a government task force said in its report released Wednesday.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) noted that bigger groupings of Chinese maritime militia vessels were seen at Beijing's artificial islands in the area, as well as Philippine-occupied islands.

As of May 9, the latest maritime patrol observed the following:

  • Panganiban (Mischief) Reef: two Chinese maritime militia ships and two Houbei Class Missile warships
  • Lawak (Nanshan) Island: one Chinese maritime militia ship
  • 29 nautical miles southwest of Recto (Reed) Bank: 11 Chinese maritime militia vessels
  • Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal: one Chinese maritime militia ship
  • Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef: 34 Chinese maritime militia ships
  • Sin Cowe East (Grierson) Reef: two Vietnamese logistics/supply ships and one Vietnamese Coast Guard vessel
  • Chigua (McKennan) Reef: 77 Chinese maritime militia ships
  • Pag-asa (Thitu) Island: 14 Chinese maritime militia ships and one China Coast Guard vessel
  • Zamora (Subi) Reef: 16 Chinese maritime militia vessels
  • Panata (Lankiam) Island: two Chinese maritime militia ships
  • Kota (Loaita) Island: one Vietnamese fishing vessel
  • Burgos (Gaven) Reef: 64 Chinese maritime militia ships
  • Paredes (Discovery Great) Reef: two Vietnamese Fisheries Surveillance Ships
  • Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef: one Chinese Rescue Service Ship, three People's Liberation Army Navy warships, 55 Chinese maritime militia vessels

The NTF-WPS also countered the earlier statement of presidential spokesperson Harry Roque that Julian Felipe Reef is not part of the Philippine EEZ.

"The JFR is a low tide elevation (LTE) located 175 NM from Bataraza, Palawan and within our 200 NM EEZ. It is part of Philippine territory inasmuch as it is located within the overlapping 12 NM territorial seas of McKennan (Chigua) Reef and of another possible high-tide feature, Grierson (Sin Cowe East) Reef, also our territories under the municipality of Kalayaan," the statement read.

China's fishing ban

Despite China's unilateral fishing ban in the waters north of 12 degrees latitude in the South China Sea, two Chinese maritime militia ships were seen harvesting shells inside the lagoon of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal from May 3 to 10.

An average of four Chinese Coast Guard ships were spotted in the traditional fishing ground off the coast of Zambales in the same time period.

A daily average of 10 Filipino fishing boats were also observed fishing in the area from May 7 to 9.

Sabina Shoal

Chinese maritime militia vessels were again seen illegally occupying Sabina Shoal from May 7 to 8.

BFAR ships MCS 3001 and MCS 3008 challenged and dispersed three Chinese ships on both days, according to the report.

"Due to the shallow waters inside the reef, the BFAR launched rubber boat to escort the CMMs out of the shoal," the report read.

The NTF-WPS also reported a Chinese Coast Guard vessel that shadowed Philippine Coast Guard ship BRP Sindangan and BFAR MCS 3005 while nearing Panatag Shoal.

The PCG ship issued two radio challenges to its Chinese counterpart.

"This incident along with the continued illegal incursions of foreign vessels sighted near Philippine-held islands have been submitted to the relevant agencies for the possible diplomatic actions," NTF-WPS said.

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