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Chinese vessels decreased but still swarming over parts of West Philippine Sea — Wescom

While the number of Chinese vessels lurking in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) has decreased, several of them were still found swarming particularly in the Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal near Palawan.

According to an Unang Balita report by JP Soriano on Thursday, the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said they always confront the Chinese vessels to inform them that they are inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, but they do not get any response.

Earlier in the month, the Wescom confirmed the swarming of several Chinese vessels in the WPS, weeks after China's coast guard reportedly took metal debris that the Philippine side had been towing.

Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. has expressed concern on the presence of Chinese vessels in the Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal, saying that they will continuously hold maritime and aerial surveillance in the area.

“The President’s directive to the Department is clear—we will not give up a single square inch of Philippine territory. We continue to conduct routine maritime and aerial patrols in the WPS,” he said.

“While the Philippines is still open for dialogue, he reiterated that activities violating the country’s sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction as well as undermining the peace and stability of the region are unacceptable,” he added.

Iroquois Reef is near the Ayungin Shoal or Second Thomas Shoal where the BRP Sierra Madre is located.

The swarming of Chinese vessels is also near the Reed Bank where the Philippines has service contracts for oil and does gas exploration.

Due to this, international law expert Atty. Jay Batongbacal claimed that the Chinese vessels were not only there to fish, but to hinder the Philippines from petroleum exploration and resupply missions.

“Those vessels are there not only to conduct illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. They are also there to discourage Filipino fishers from approaching and stand by ready to interfere with other Philippine activities such as petroleum exploration or resupply of our islands and outposts in the WPS,” he said.

“It’s part of China’s cabbage strategy for taking over the WPS and the entire South China Sea,” he added.

GMA News tried to reach out to the Chinese Embassy for a comment, but they have yet to respond.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian earlier said Beijing will continue to adhere to what it described as a “friendly consultation” with the Philippines.

“We stick to friendly consultation and handle differences and disputes properly,” he said in a report on GMA’s “24 Oras Weekend” on Sunday.

“The blueprint of China-Philippines relations has been painted and it’s time for us to take concrete actions to make it happen,” he added.—Giselle Ombay/AOL, GMA Integrated News