Philippines spots 220 Chinese language boats at disputed reef

Manila, March 21

The Philippines urged China on Sunday to recall more than 200 Chinese boats it said had been spotted at a reef in the South China Sea, saying the presence of the vessels violated its maritime rights as it claims ownership of the area.

Authorities said the Philippines coast guard had reported that about 220 vessels, believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, were seen moored at the Whitsun Reef, which Manila calls the Julian Felipe Reef, on March 7.

“We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory,” Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana said.

The Philippine military had conducted air and maritime patrols in the South China Sea to further validate the report, spokesman Marine Major General Edgard Arevalo said, but did not say when.

The military had submitted its findings to other government agencies, and they would be used as basis for taking “appropriate actions not limited to filing diplomatic protests”, he said in a statement, without elaborating.

“The (Armed Forces of the Philippines) will not renege from our commitment to protect and defend our maritime interest within the bounds of the law,” Arevalo said. The vessels are fishing boats believed to be manned by Chinese military-trained personnel, according to Philippines security officials. — Reuters

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