MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Around 200 ships are still moored at West Philippine Sea, a geospatial intelligence firm bared Thursday, which the company said were likely the same fleet that were monitored over Julian Felipe Reef in March.
As of May 3, some 7 ships were only spotted over Julian Felipe Reef or Whitsun Reef, Simularity cofounder and CEO Liz Derr told ANC.
Julian Felipe Reef is a large boomerang-shaped shallow coral reef at the northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs or Union Banks, a group of features under the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan.
Another 150 ships were also located about 9 nautical miles over Hughes Reef, which is part of the Union Banks, she added.
Derr said some 50 ships were also monitored over Gaven Reef, located about 3 nautical miles from the country's exclusive economic zone.
"We're looking at about 200 ships. We don't have the flags for the ships at this point but they look very much [like] the ones we saw at Whitsun Reef. They are still in the Philippine EEZ," she said.
"Almost all of them are moored. They don't move... Just like they were at Whitsun Reef," she added.
Derr did not specify where the vessels originated from but said the ships were similar to those spotted in Julian Felipe Reef, which were from China.
The American software company, which uses artificial intelligence software and human geospatial intelligence analysts, monitored the supposed incursions since last year.
"In March, the Whitsun Reef invasion was noticed by the Philippine Coast Guard. We started looking at that and then looking back historically about the ships that had been there. We saw that it went past all the way back to December and then on and off before that," Derr said.
Simularity is a company that analyzes geography using satellites and drones. Its expertise is “finding things that are hard to see,” the company profile said.
MARITIME, AIR PATROL
The Philippine Coast Guard continues to deploy its ships and air assets over the West Philippine Sea after it turned away 7 Chinese vessels in Sabina Shoal, its spokesman Commodore Armand Balilo said Thursday.
"'Yong ating mga eroplano nagde-deploy din po kami. Naga-alternate po kasama po ang eroplano ng Philippine Navy at Philippine Air Force, may schedule po kaming sinusunod diyan," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(We also deploy our aircrafts. We alternate with the air assets of Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force, we follow a schedule.)
Around 200 Chinese vessels were spotted at the Julian Felipe Reef in March, an incursion that Manila has formally protested against and several countries have sounded alarm on.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila had denied allegations the vessels were part of Beijing's militia, describing them as fishing vessels taking shelter due to “rough sea conditions.” It also insisted that the reef is part of their territory.
Derr said they only saw 1 ship fishing at Julian Felipe Reef in March. There are also 7 ships fishing near Hughes Reef in May.
"They demanded they leave Whitsun Reef and they did. They did not leave the EEZ, however. Maybe they should have been more specific about demanding that the ships leave the EEZ and not just Whitsun Reef," she said.
The West Philippine Sea is the country's EZZ in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims in near entirety. Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan also have overlapping claims over the resource-rich waterway.
A United Nations-backed court ruled in favor of Manila and junked Beijing's claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea.
However, Beijing, which continues to ignore the landmark ruling, has been accused of militarizing also the marine resources- and energy-rich waters, a major international trade route.
The Philippine government has filed several protests regarding the continued incursions of Chinese ships in the country's EEZ.
On Monday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. took to Twitter and told China to "GET THE *CK OUT" of Philippine waters. He later apologized to his Chinese counterpart.
In a taped speech that aired Wednesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte likened Manila's arbitral victory against China to a piece of paper, which he said he would throw in a wastebasket.
"Tapos sabi nila itong papel sa kaso nanalo tayo, i-pursue mo. Pinursue ko, walang nangyari," Duterte said. "Actually sa usapang bugoy, sabihin ko sa‘yo, bigay mo sa akin, sabihin ko, ‘P***** *** papel lang ‘yan, itatapon ko ‘yan sa wastebasket.'"
(They tell me to pursue this paper because we won. I pursued it but nothing happened. Actually, if you give that to me, I will tell you, 'Son of *****, I will throw that in the wastebasket.')