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China urges Philippines to stop maritime drills in disputed waters


Chinese Foreign Ministry called on the Philippine security forces to stop maritime exercises in the South China Sea, saying it would "escalate disputes" in the area.

In his regular press conference on April 26, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin reiterated China's claims over Nansha Islands or Spratly Islands despite the 2016 UN Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that said the islands were within Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ).  

China does not recognize the arbitral court ruling.

"China enjoys sovereignty over Nansha Islands including Zhongye Island and Zhongsha Islands including Huangyan Island and their adjacent waters, and exercises jurisdiction in relevant waters," said Wenbin, when asked to comment on Philippine Coast Guard's maritime drills in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that the Philippines is claiming.

"We urge the relevant side to respect China's sovereignty and rights and interests, and stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes," Wenbin added.

Over the weekend, about eight capital ships of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources  (BFAR) conducted sovereignty patrols at the West Philippine Sea despite the presence of several Chinese ships. 

More maritime drills will also be conducted at Batanes Group of Islands, Benham Rise, and the southern areas of the Philippines.

Latest reports showed that 14 Chinese militia vessels -- down from over 200 in March -- were still in the Julian Felipe Reef, which is within the Philippines' EEZ. 

The Philippines has filed numerous diplomatic protests against China over the continued presence of its ships within the West Philippine Sea. 

BFAR to monitor fishing areas in WPS

In a statement on Tuesday, the BFAR Region III said they will enforce programs that will further assess the situation of fishing areas in provinces of Bataan and Zambales to uphold territorial claims at Philippines' EEZ.

"DA-BFAR will continuously enforce programs that will benefit our fisheries and aquatic resources and the fisherfolk in coastal communities along the West Philippine Sea," BFAR said.

"The Bureau also reiterates Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s statement that encourages unity and a whole-of-nation approach to uphold our rights over the West Philippine Sea and our Exclusive Economic Zone," read the statement.

The government's task force on the West Philippine Sea previously vowed that it would field more assets in the region to assert country's territorial claims and curb illegal fishing. --KBK, GMA News

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