More than 200 Chinese maritime militia (CMM) vessels were sighted moored in the West Philippine Sea, a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) report showed.
The report, which was received by the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS), showed that the PCG counted around 220 CMM vessels massed at Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) on March 7, 2021.
Julian Felipe Reef is a large boomerang shaped shallow coral reef at the northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs (Union Reefs), located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.
It is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS), over which the Philippines owns exclusive right to use resources, including fish, oil and natural gas.
"Despite clear weather at the time, the Chinese vessels massed at the reef showed no actual fishing activities and had their full white lights turned on during night time," the national task force said in a statement.
"The NTF-WPS notes this circumstance as a concern due to the possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to safety of navigation."
The task force vowed to monitor the situation to protect Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.
"In consonance with the Philippine commitment to the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Government shall continue to peacefully and proactively pursue its initiatives on environmental protection, food security and freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea as part of its overall national security policy," said the task force.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the DFA will only file a diplomatic protest upon the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
"Only if the generals tell me. In my watch foreign policy is the fist in the iron glove of the armed forces. I don’t care for media. Undependable. And civilian," he said in a Twitter post.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Chinese militia vessels, West Philippine Sea, National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea