Whitsun Reef: Philippines files new diplomatic protest against China
- Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said Chinese boats ‘really are fishing everything in the water that belongs by law to us’
- Manila said 240 Chinese vessels were in its waters as of Sunday, and the Philippine navy will send three more ships to the South China Sea
The Philippines last month described the presence of over 200 boats believed to be manned by militias inside its 322km (200 mile) exclusive economic zone as “swarming and threatening”, while the United States, Japan and others have voiced concern about China’s intentions, prompting rebukes by Beijing.
In a Twitter post, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said “they really are fishing everything in the water that belongs by law to us”.
A Philippine government task force said the vessels, which are about 60 metres (197ft) in length, can catch a tonne of fish a day. It said 240 were in various areas in Philippine waters as of Sunday, including nine at Whitsun Reef.
“The continuous swarming of Chinese vessels poses a threat to the safety of navigation, safety of life at sea, and impedes the exclusive right of Filipinos to benefit from the marine wealth in the EEZ,” the task force said in a statement late on Monday.
China’s embassy in Manila and the foreign ministry in Beijing did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Chinese diplomats have previously said the Whitsun reef was part of its traditional fishing grounds, and that vessels were taking shelter from rough seas and did not have militia aboard.
Since coming to power in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has criticised US foreign policy and sought to improve ties with Beijing, but China’s maritime assertiveness has put him in a difficult spot at times.
The Philippine navy said it planned to deploy three more ships in the South China Sea.
“We have to understand that to say that one area is ours, we have to be there,” army spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo said.