Patrols to continue vs illegal incursions in the West Philippine Sea
MANILA – The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) today said there were 287 Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels scatters within the waters of Kalayaan town, within and outside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) last Sunday, May 9,2021.
In a statement, NTF-WPS Chairperson and National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. said bigger groupings were seen at the artificial islands of China whole others were seen near islands occupied by the Philippines.
Citing reports from the maritime patrol, Secretary Esperon said there were two Chinese Maritime Militia, and two Houbei Class Missile warships inside Panganiban or Mischief Reef, one Chinese Maritime Militia was at Lawak or Nanshan Island, 11 Chinese Maritime Militia were located some 29 nautical miles southwest of Recto (Reed) Bank, a Chinese Maritime Militia was seen at Ayungin or Second Thomas Shoal, a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) was seen at the shoal during an earlier patrol last May 7.
There were also 34 CMM vessels at Julian Felipe or Whitsun Reef, two Vietnamese logistics/supply ships and one Vietnamese Coast Guard vessel at Sin Cowe East or Frierson Reef and 77 CMM assets at Chigua Reef.
The Julian Felipe Reef is a low tide elevation (LTE) some 175 nautical miles from Batarasa, Palawan and within the Philippines’ 200 nautical miles EEZ. It is part of Philippine territory as it is within the 12 nautical miles overlapping territorial seas of McKennan (Chigua) Reef and of another possible high-tide feature, Grierson (Sin Cowe East) Reef, all within the Municipality of Kalayaan.
Five Chinese Coast Guard vessels were seen from May 3-10 by the Area Task Force – North at Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, at Pag-asa Islands and Ayungin Shoal. With China’s unilateral fishing ban from May 1 to August 16,2021, two CMM vessels were seen harvesting shells inside the Bajo de Masinloc lagoon. A daily average of ten Filipino fishing boats were seen inside the lagoon from May 7-9,2021.
The Philippine government, through the NTF-WPS, tasked the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) under the Task Force Pagsasanay and deployed their assets along Bajo de Masinloc.
The vessels have elements from the Philippine National Police-Maritime Group with several of its floating assets. Complementary personnel will be set to Kalayaan effective Saturday, May 15,2021.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila has not replied to requests for comments on the said report. (Melo M. Acuña)
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and Philippine Coast Guard challenge foreign vessels within the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone. (Contributed video/PCG/BFAR)