Philippines accuses China of “provocation” after over 200 Chinese militia vessels gather in waters claimed by Manila.
The Philippines’ Defence Secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, has demanded that over 200 Chinese militia vessels leave Philippines’ waters immediately, reports the Guardian. The vessels have congregated at the disputed Whitsun reef and Manila says the vessels are crewed by militias, rather than fishermen.
Mr Lorenzana said: “We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory.” Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said late on Sunday that the Philippines had filed a diplomatic protest over the Chinese presence.
Manila calls the boomerang-shaped reef which lies well within the Philippine’s exclusive economic zone, Julian Felipe. Manila said the vessels were not engaged in fishing but added that Chinese boats are “a concern due to the possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to safety of navigation”.
Chinese fishing fleets have long been suspected of being utilised as maritime militias to help assert Beijing’s territorial claims, although China has played down those claims.