Around 220 Chinese fishing vessels that were believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel were moored at the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun
Reef) on March 7, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea confirmed Saturday.
According to the NTF-WPS, at the time they were spotted, the vessels were not involved in fishing activities despite the clear weather and had their white lights turned on during the night.
“The NTF-WPS notes this circumstance as a concern due to the possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to the safety of navigation,” it said in a statement.
The NTF-WPS also stressed that the reef, located 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan, was within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf, where the country had “exclusive rights to exploit or conserve any resources.”
“The Government will continue to monitor the situation as it remains steadfast in its duty to protect Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights in the country’s maritime domain,” the NTF-WPS said.
The Philippine Government had sought compensation from China for the damage done to the maritime resources within the country’s EEZ.
In 2016, an international tribunal invalidated Beijing’s claims over the West Philippine Sea, saying that there was “no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line.” — DVM, GMA News