Manila’s foreign office on Tuesday said it had summoned the Beijing ambassador for the first time to discuss the “illegally prolonged presence” of Chinese ships anchored in its exclusive economic zone. they are in the South China Sea, when the Philippines has intensified their opposition to this issue.
Meanwhile late Tuesday, a government task force said Philippine military patrols over the weekend found hundreds of Chinese Marine Military ships also “lingering.” in the different areas that the Philippines claims over the disputed waterways.
Deputy Minister Elizabeth Buensuceso said she met Chinese Ambassador Huang Xi Lian at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday and repeated Manila’s request for Beijing to withdraw ships.
“The DFA expressed dissatisfaction with the prolonged illegal Chinese presence on Julian Felipe Reef,” the foreign ministry said, using the Filipino name for Whitsun Reef. “The continued presence of Chinese ships around the reef is a cause of tension in the region.”
For its part, China claims that these are Chinese fishing vessels operating in waters within the Spratly archipelago, where Beijing claims to have maritime rights. Beijing had previously said that the ships were taking refuge in bad weather.
Earlier this month, the foreign affairs office criticized the Chinese Embassy for making “blatant false statements such as claims about adverse weather conditions when it is unavailable and is believed to be non-existent. in the maritime militia ships in the area “.
The Chinese Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Tuesday, Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr reiterated his call for China to withdraw the ship.
“Come on, come, it’s time to go,” Locsin said in a tweet. “As I said, although it may be the traditional fishing ground, the tradition of obedience to law and law on this matter is UNCLOS and arbitration rulings and general statutory building rules,” he said, referring to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
During their meeting, Buensuceso said that she reminded Ambassador Huang of the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in 2016 that Beijing had no basis to claim historic rights in the South China Sea. China has refused to honor that ruling.
Locsin tweeted that only nine ships remain on the Whitsun Reef, within the 200 mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.
In a statement released late at night, the National Task Force for the West Philippines Sea said government patrols had detected about 240 Chinese-driven ships in Philippine waters. earlier this week. This is higher than the 220 reported in March.
According to the task force, Sunday patrols observed 136 ships at the Burgos Reef, nine at the Julian Felipe Reef (Filipino name is Whitsun Reef), and 65 in the Reef. Male, 6 on Vanh Khan Reef, 3 on Subi Reef, 4 on Pag- Asa Island (Thitu), one on West York Island, 5 on Kota Island and 11 on Thomas Second Shoal.
The patrols also uncovered People’s Liberation Army ships, including two Houbei-class missile warships, at Panganiban Reef, a Corvette-class warship at Fiery Cross Reef and a naval tugboat at Zamora. Reef.
The Philippines has named its territory in the South China Sea the West Philippine Sea.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, but five other Asian governments – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam – have territorial claims. While Indonesia does not consider itself a party to the South China Sea dispute, Beijing claims historic rights to parts of the waters that overlap Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.
Meanwhile, in recent days, both the United States and China have introduced aircraft carriers into the South China Sea.
The carrier strike group Theodore Roosevelt entered the area earlier this month and then conducted joint exercises with the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF). The strike group also joined with the Makin Island readiness Group for expeditionary strike operations on April 9, US Navy to speak.
Liaoning, a Chinese aircraft carrier, entered the South China Sea on April 10, according to the report Global Times, a Chinese state tabloid.
While the Philippines has daily diplomatic protests against Beijing encroaching on its waters, the decision to summon the Chinese envoy is a rare occurrence under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. Monday’s meeting at the Philippine foreign affairs office was the first time Huang, who assumed the position in December 2019.
In a statement relayed through his spokesman earlier this month, Duterte said he wanted to peacefully settle the problem of Chinese militia ships anchored in EEZ waters. The president did not mention the maritime dispute in a speech late on Monday, his first major public appearance in two weeks.
Reported by BenarNews, an online news service affiliated with RFA.