Sunday, March 21, 2021

Philippines says 220 Chinese vessels spotted at disputed reef | Al Jazeera

Philippines says 220 Chinese vessels spotted at disputed reef

The Philippines has expressed concern after spotting hundreds of Chinese military vessels at a reef claimed by both countries in the South China Sea, but did not immediately lodge a protest.

A government task force overseeing the disputed region said late on Saturday that about 220 vessels, believed to be crewed by Chinese maritime militia personnel, were seen moored at the Whitsun Reef on March 7.

The reef, which Manila calls Julian Felipe, is a boomerang-shaped and shallow coral region about 175 nautical miles (324 kilometers) west of Bataraza town in the western Philippine province of Palawan.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said the reef is well within Philippines’s exclusive economic zone and it “enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources” there.

Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin asked whether he would file a diplomatic protest over the ships’ presence, told a journalist on Twitter: “Only if the generals tell me. In my watch foreign policy is the fist in the iron glove of the armed forces.”

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

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