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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Philippine government insists Chinese maritime militia still swarm country's exclusive economic zone

Philippine government says Chinese maritime militia vessels disband to other areas in the country’s exclusive economic zone

MANILA – The Philippine government’s National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) today reiterated its assertion of its sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and the West Philippine Sea.

In its statement released today, the Task Force chaired by National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. said they are deeply concerned over the “continuing unlawful presence (swarming) of the Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM), which did not pull out and have remained in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef and are not in other areas of the Kalayaan Island Group in the Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan.”

The NTF said there were three rounds of routine aerial and maritime sovereignty patrol missions “complemented by the filing of a diplomatic protest by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA),” recorded 220 vessels on March 7,2021, but remained high at 183 last March 22 and 199 last March 27,2021.

“On March 29,2021, 44 Chinese maritime militia remain moored, anchored, and stationery at Julian Felipe Reef,” the statement revealed. However, it added 115 CMM vessels were monitored in Chigua (Kennan) Reef, 45 vessels in Pag-asa (Thitu) islands and 50 more vessels are dispersed in Panganiban (Mischief), Kagitingan (Feiry), and Zamora (Subi) Reefs, all within the Kalayaan island Group. There were four People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels at Panganiban Reef, which is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf of the main Philippine archipelago.

The NTF-WPS expressed appreciation to countries that expressed support. The task force said these international partners share common adherence to rules-based order in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS, as affirmed by the 2016 Arbitral Award.

“Neither the Philippines nor the international community will ever accept China’s assertion of its so-called ‘indisputable integrated sovereignty’ over almost all of the South China sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea,” the statement further revealed.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea calls on China to “immediately withdraw” these vessels flying its flag as it stands by its observation that these so-called “fishing” vessels are maritime militia. The build-up and massing formation from Julian Felipe Reef to other areas of the KIG is “hazardous to navigation and safety of life at sea.” It also expressed doubts the vessels “may be doing illicit activities at night” as their presence may even cause irreparable damage to the marine environment attributable to marine pollution and destruction of coral reefs. The Task Force added the swarming poses a threat to peaceful exercise of sovereign rights of the Philippines in its EEZ.

It reiterated its commitment to uphold Philippine sovereignty over its territories as it vowed to protect its EEZ in accordance with international law. The Task Force said it increased the deployment of maritime vessels from the Philippine Navy (PN), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to undertake enhanced routine patrols to safeguard the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national patrimony in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG). (Melo M. Acuña)

Photos of the Chinese Maritime Militia in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. (Contributed photos from Philippine Coast Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines)

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