A war of nerves is unfolding in an area in the West Philippine Sea over scores of Chinese vessels suspected to be manned by China’s militia.
This as a Philippine military plane patrolling the West Philippine Sea this week still spotted scores of Chinese vessels at several reefs within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and were told over radio to leave the area, and that the waters their vessels were occupying belonged to China.
One such message relayed to patrolling Philippine forces was: “You are approaching a Chinese reef….To avoid any move that may cause misunderstanding, please leave immediately.”
In response, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) issued a statement on Wednesday demanding that China “immediately withdraw these vessels flying its flag.”
“The NTF-WPS reiterates its assertion of Philippine sovereignty, and sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the [Kalayaan Island Group] and [WPS], and expresses deep concern over the continuing unlawful presence (swarming) of the Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM), which did not pull out and have remained in Julian Felipe Reef and are now in other areas of the Kalayaan Island Group in the municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan,” the task force said in a statement.
The task force said there were still 44 Chinese vessels at Julian Felipe Reef on Monday and more than 100 of the same type of at other reefs that form part of the Philippines’ Kalayaan Island Group.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has filed a diplomatic protest over the Chinese vessels’ presence in the country’s EEZ.