Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana said Monday that Chinese militia vessels on the Julian Felipe Reef covered by the West Philippine Sea are still not leaving.
“Nandun pa at binibilang naming mabuti,” said Sobejana.
On March 7, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea spotted at Julian Felipe Reef large fishing boats commanded by the Chinese maritime militia lined up.
According to Sobejana, several AFP aircraft are currently on Julian Felipe Reef.
In a radio interview on Monday, AFP spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said Sobejana had instructed the armed forces to conduct an air maritime patrol in the area.
They will also send a report to the Department of National Defense about the Chinese maritime militia.
The Philippine government has filed a diplomatic protest after more than 200 Chinese ships were spotted near a reef within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. confirmed the protest Sunday night in connection with Chinese activities on Juan Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef).
Chinese militia vessels still in Julian Felipe reef
Julian Felipe Reef is within the EEZ and continental shelf of the Philippines, northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs (Unions Reefs) approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.
“I got the coordinates, so to speak. And relayed to my legal artillery, ‘Fire at will.’ Shell should be flying at first light. I don’t usually announce maneuvers but it seems everybody is baring his chest,” added the secretary, while sharing National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. recommended the protest.
Both the Department of National Defense (DND) and militant fishermen disliked the action of China, a country run by Chinese President Xi Jinping – a leader known to be a friend of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“This is a clear provocative action of militarizing the area. These are territories well within Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS) where Filipinos have the sole right to resources under international law and the 2016 arbitral ruling,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.