287 Chinese vessels remain scattered within, outside PH EEZ — WPS task force

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 12)— Some 287 Chinese vessels suspected to be maritime militia remain scattered over various parts of the Kalayaan town in Palawan, both within and outside the country’s exclusive economic zone, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) reported on Wednesday.

Citing data from its latest maritime patrol on May 9, the task force said Beijing’s vessels were spotted in the following areas: Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Lawak (Nanshan) Island, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, Pag-asa Island, Zamora (Subi) Reef, Panata Island, Burgos (Gaven) Reef North, Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, and part of the Pagkakaisa (Union) Banks including the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef.

Vessels were also spotted near Recto (Reed) Bank, it added.

The task force added that “bigger groupings” of Chinese militia ships were also sighted at the artificial islands of China, as well as in areas near Philippine-occupied islands.

The NTF-WPS assured the government will continue to strengthen its presence in the West Philippine Sea. It likewise encouraged fishermen to continue sailing and fishing in the country’s waters, as authorities guaranteed the protection of their safety and welfare.

China has repeatedly rejected the 2016 arbitral ruling that recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights in areas of its 200-nautical mile EEZ that Beijing contests. The tribunal had also invalidated China's sweeping "historic rights" claims to the sea.

The Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, has lodged a number of diplomatic protests against the East Asian giant for their vessels’ lingering presence in the West Philippine Sea.