MANILA - Five Chinese Coast Guard vessels have remained in the country's territorial waters, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said Wednesday.
Latest patrols conducted by maritime authorities from April 15 to 22 showed that 3 Chinese vessels were still inside Bajo de Masinloc, a shoal off Zambales, the NTF-WPS said in a statement.
The task force also confirmed "the continued illegal presence" of 2 Chinese vessels in the waters of Kalayaan in Palawan and Ayungin Shoal, respectively.
"These incursions are under review for the possible filing of appropriate diplomatic actions," the NTF-WPS said.
"We remind all stakeholders in the region of their respective commitments made in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and underscore the importance of diplomacy and sincere discussion in exploring areas of cooperation especially on marine environmental protection in the area, lest we risk denying present and future generations the right to a healthy and sustainable environment," the task force added.
The NTF-WPS also reported there were no direct incidents between the Chinese Coast Guard and Filipino fishermen in the Philippine waters for the past 3 weeks.
At least 20 Filipino fishing boats and service boats were monitored fishing within Bajo de Masinloc, located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales.
The West Philippine Sea is the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims in entirety by demarcating it through its so-called 9-dash line.
Manila's top diplomat and defense chief have demanded China for weeks to pull out its ships monitored to be in Philippine waters since early March.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, the Philippines has lodged 78 diplomatic protests against China over its illegal and lingering presence in West Philippine Sea.
Beijing claims the South China Sea in entirety despite having no legal basis, as adjudged by the UN-backed arbitration court in 2016.