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Radio challenge greets Philippine maritime patrol over Julian Felipe Reef

"Radio challenge" from Chinese authorities asking them to leave the area greeted Philippine soldiers and the journalists who covered a recent maritime patrol over the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

The radio challenge was received several times as the Philippine soldiers approached the reef, according to Chino Gaston's report on Unang Balita on Wednesday.


The Philippine soldiers, however, were unfazed as they replied by stating their mission in the area, which was to conduct maritime patrol over the country's exclusive economic zone.

It was the latest maritime patrol conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines since hundreds of Chinese fishing boats were spotted illegally moored at the reef, which is part of the Philippines' EEZ, on March 7.

From 220, around 183 Chinese militia vessels remain off the reef.

Chinese authorities claimed the vessels were just seeking refuge in the area although the Unang Balita report clearly shows the weather was fine.

The Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, has demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Chinese vessels, saying their lingering presence was a blatant infringement of the country's sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.

Prof. Jay Batongbacal of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs, said he does not expect the area to be "fully emptied" of Chinese vessels

"I don't expect it to be fully emptied, but they will want to take some of the tension off the incident by dispersing the ships," he said in the Unang Balita report.

"Given what they're dealing with in all of their so many issues, they don't want additional problems."

Manila lodged a diplomatic protest against China on March 21, a move backed by the United States.

The Philippines, the DFA said, "has been assiduously protesting the illegal and lingering (swarming) presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime assets in the said areas."

Julian Felipe Reef, called Niu’e Jiao by China, is a large boomerang-shaped shallow coral reef at the northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs (Union Reefs) located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan. —KBK, GMA News