MANILA – The United States on Tuesday said it stands with the Philippine government amid reports of more than 200 Chinese vessels amassing near the Julian Felipe Reef, which is within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The US Embassy in Manila said it notes the diplomatic protest filed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. as well as the call of Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana for China to recall the ships.
“We share the concerns of our Philippine allies. The PRC (People’s Republic of China) uses maritime militia to intimidate, provoke, and threaten other nations, which undermines peace and security in the region,” the Embassy statement read.
It added that Chinese boats have been mooring in the area for many months “in ever-increasing numbers, regardless of the weather.”
“We stand with the Philippines, our oldest treaty ally in Asia,” the Embassy said.
The Philippine Coast Guard reported that around 220 Chinese fishing vessels, believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, were sighted moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef on March 7.
Julian Felipe Reef is a large boomerang-shaped shallow coral reef at the northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs (Union Reefs), located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.
It is within the Philippine EEZ and Continental Shelf, over which the country enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources which encompass both living resources, such as fish, and non-living resources such as oil and natural gas.
In an earlier statement, the Chinese Embassy in Manila denied the presence of the militia in the area and insists that the reef it calls Niu’e Jiao, is part of China’s self-declared administrative district in the South China Sea.
“Niu’e Jiao is a part of China’s Nansha Qundao. Chinese fishing vessels have been fishing in its adjacent waters for many years,” it said.
“Recently, some Chinese fishing vessels take shelter due to rough sea conditions. It has been a normal practice for Chinese fishing vessels take shelter under such circumstances. There is no Chinese Maritime Militia as alleged,” it added. (PNA)