The Philippines condemned the presence of more than 200 ships “belonging to the Chinese maritime militia” within its exclusive economic zone, and demanded Beijing to order their withdrawal.

The Philippines condemned the presence of more than 200 ships “belonging to the Chinese maritime militia” within its exclusive economic zone, and demanded Beijing to order their withdrawal.
A photo of some ships that the Philippine government claimed to be part of a Chinese fleet that was illegally in a disputed area. Photo: Philippine Coast Guard

On Sunday, the Philippine government demanded the withdrawal of more than 200 “Chinese marine militia” ships on a disputed coral reef in the South Sea named after the Asian giant. He described their presence as “a provocative act seeking to militarize the region.”

We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and to immediately withdraw all ships that violate our maritime rights and violate our national sovereignty. “It is an evident act of provocation and militarization in the region. These are the territories that are clearly located within the exclusive economic zone of the PhilippinesPhilippine Secretary of Defense Delphine Lorenzana said.

A Philippine government agency monitoring the situation on the high seas discovered about 220 ships in the Whitsun Reef, disputed between China and the Philippines, on March 7. The agency published photos of the Freedom Fleet in one of the most contested areas in that sea lane.

On Sunday night, Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Luxen indicated on his Twitter account that the Philippines had lodged a diplomatic complaint about the Chinese military presence.

For its part, China denied the accusations and confirmed that fishing boats had moved to the coral reefs to take shelter from the bad weather. “Chinese fishing boats have long fished in the waters near these coral reefsChinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press conference on Monday.

Illustrative photo of ships of Chinese origin carrying out fishing activities near Ecuador's exclusive economic zone
Illustrative photo of ships of Chinese origin carrying out fishing activities near Ecuador’s exclusive economic zone

Because of the bad sea conditions, Some have recently taken refuge near coral reefs […] I think this is a completely normal performance, and I hope it is perceived rationallyHe stressed.

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The coral reef, known in the Philippines as Julian Philip, is located about 324 kilometers (175 nautical miles) west of Pataraza, in the Philippine province of Palawan. Located within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, the state has “the right to exploit or preserve resources there.”According to the official body.

China claims a large portion of the South China Sea, and is opposed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, who have competing claims over the area. With regard to disputes with Manila, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), based in the Netherlands, It ruled in favor of that country in 2016, concluding that Beijing had no “historic right” to that sea..

The specialized agency of the Philippine government said that the large number of Chinese ships in the region “is a matter of concern because of the potential for excessive fishing and environmental damage, in addition to the risks to navigation.”

The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte.  REUTERS / Eloisa Lopez
The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. REUTERS / Eloisa Lopez

Although he made it clear that at the present time the boats had not been identified for their fishing activities, Numerous precedents of practices of this nature around the world have led Manila to be on the alert for their possible occurrence.

During the last quarter of 2020, the countries of South America with coasts in the Pacific Ocean – especially Chile, Peru and Ecuador – expressed on various occasions their concern about the presence of a fleet of more than 300 ships near their EEZs. Consequently, their fleets closely monitored the ships’ activities due to the likelihood that they would cross that maritime boundary.

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