Philippines alarmed by arrival of vast Chinese ‘fishing fleet’ at disputed island – The Independent


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AsiaThe Philippine coast guard spotted about 220 vessels moored at the boomerang-shaped Whitsun Reef on 7 MarchIn this photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard/National Task Force-West Philippine Sea, some of the 220 Chinese vessels are seen at Whitsun Reef on 7 March (AP)The Philippines has called on China to withdraw more than 200 Chinese fishing boats it said had been spotted at a reef in the disputed South China Sea. About 220 vessels were spotted by the Philippine coast guard moored at the boomerang-shaped Whitsun Reef, which Beijing also claims, on 7 March. The Philippines said the boats appear to be crewed by China’s maritime militia. “We view with grave concern the presence of 220 Chinese militia boats in the Julian Felipe Reef (internationally known as Whitsun Reef, located within Union Reefs) in the West Philippine Sea. This is a clear provocative action of militarising the area,” defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement. He said that these territories are within Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS) where “Filipinos have the sole right to resources under international law and the 2016 arbitral ruling.”China’s claim over 90 per cent of the South China Sea has been disputed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. Beijing has also refused to recognise a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal which invalidated its claims in the waterway. Mr Lorenzana said that the Philippines call on the Chinese “to stop this incursion” and immediately recall these boats “violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory.” Thanks for signing up to the News newsletter{{#verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}} {{^verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}}I would like to be emailed about offers, events and updates from The Independent.Read our privacy noticeRead more: Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin has also lodged a diplomatic protest over the ships. A government task force overseeing the disputed region said that large numbers of Chinese boats are a concern due to the “possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to safety of navigation.” The United States has often accused China of militarising the South China Sea. Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo had said last year that China was militarising the South China Sea and “illegally” claiming more territory there, threatening vital sea lanes.
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