MANILA – A maritime patrol will be carried out again this week to determine whether there are still Chinese militia vessels remaining off Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday night.
“We’ll see when our maritime patrol goes again this week,” Lorenzana said in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Earlier, Lorenzana said there are still 44 Chinese vessels off Julian Felipe Reef even if there is no good reason for them to stay there as the weather in the area has improved.
The defense chief also declined to comment on reports that there are Chinese missile boats spotted off Panganiban Reef which is also in the WPS.
“I can’t comment as we have no confirmation (yet),” he said.
The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea earlier expressed concern over a Philippine Coast Guard report about 200 Chinese fishing vessels, believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, sighted in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef on March 7.
The reef is located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.
“We have already lodged our diplomatic protest stating unequivocally our stand on the issue. We, again, reiterate our demand for the Chinese to leave our sovereign territories and abide by international law,” Lorenzana said.
On Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) denounced the remarks of the Chinese embassy in Manila calling “unprofessional” the statement of Lorenzana regarding the issue.
It also reiterated Lorenzana’s demand for Beijing to “immediately withdraw” its remaining ships in the vicinity of the Julian Felipe Reef and other adjacent features in the Kalayaan Island Group in the WPS. (PNA)