MANILA - New satellite images from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative-Center for Strategic and International Studies reveal that China's "most destructive boats" are back in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The AMTI-CSIS report said satellite images collected show Chinese clam harvesting fleets have returned to the area "over the last six months."
"Satellite imagery shows that clam harvesting boats have been operating with regularity at Bombay Reef in the Paracel Islands since late 2018, as evidenced most clearly by the sediment plumes visible in images from April 11. Those plumes, along with the scarring spread across the reef surface, are the telltale signs of the prop-digging method of extraction used during the earlier phase of clam harvesting," the report said.
Clam harvesting is also visible on Passu Keah, based on satellite images taken on February 24, 2018 and on November 4, 2018, which showed "scars left by the harvesters' props."
The boats have also returned to Scarborough Shoal, as shown in imagery from December 2018.
New scarring on the reef from extraction can also be seen in images from December and March.
The report noted a different method of harvesting clams from the reefs, as reported by ABS-CBN News' Chiara Zambrano in April.
A "mothership" and a number of small boats were also found in Lankiam Cay.
"The mothership was about 20 meters long while those seen at Bombay Reef are typically closer to 30 meters, but the smaller boats are roughly the same dimensions," the report said.
Also in April, Chinese maritime militia were seen near Kota Island and Panata Island.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier said the Philippines would take legal action against China over the clam harvest.