MANILA - The Philippine military should verify the reported return of Chinese clam harvesting fleets in the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang said Tuesday.
A report by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative-Center for Strategic and International Studies said satellite images collected show Chinese clam harvesting fleets have returned to Philippine waters "over the last six months."
“This is the first time I’ve heard of that and I suppose the WesCom (Western Command) should make a validation of that and refer it to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs for whatever action the department may take on that issue,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters during a Palace press briefing.
Filing a diplomatic protest on the issue however would be up to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Panelo said.
Last month, Filipino fishermen reported that Chinese fishermen were mass harvesting giant clams in the Scarborough Shoal.
Foreign Affairs Chief, Teodoro Locsin Jr. previously said the Philippines would take legal action against China over the clam harvest in the resource-rich shoal.
The Philippines and China have long been involved in a maritime dispute, and Beijing even refused to recognize a ruling from a United Nations-backed arbitral court that invalidated its economic claim to around 90 percent of resource-rich South China Sea.