- AFTER NEWS reports broke out and public sectors, including lawmakers, censured the presence of Chinese vessels believed harboring militiamen, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says ships were sent to the Julian Felipe Reef to patrol the area.
- A US-BASED private geospatial and data analysis firm, Simularity says it saw hundreds of Chinese vessels “mooring, arriving, and departing” in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in the West Philippine Sea since December 2020.
MANILA — The Chinese embassy denies ships at the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef are militia ships. It says they are fishing vessels caught in bad weather and were seeking shelter. It also says they own the reef. The claim has no basis in international law as The Hague decided and clarified important aspects of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and customary international law.
“We are ready to defend our national sovereignty and protect the marine resources of the Philippines. Thus, there will be an increased presence of the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard ships to conduct sovereignty patrols and protect our fishermen in the West Philippine Sea,” he points out.
“We stand by our position calling for the immediate withdrawal of the Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef which has been communicated to the Chinese Ambassador,” Lorenzana says in a statement in response to the findings.
Navy and coast guard ships have already been deployed to monitor the situation in the area, while the Philippine Air Force deploys aircraft “every day with the same mission,” says Lorenzana.
“Our air and sea assets are ready to protect our sovereignty and sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea and the Kalayaan Island Group,” says the Defense chief, adding that the agency is “consistently coordinating” with other Government agencies on efforts in the West Philippine Sea.
“By securing the West Philippine Sea and its islands in the Kalayaan area, the Philippines reinforces its commitment to keeping the freedom of navigation and maintaining regional peace and stability,” Lorenzana says. (DS)