Locsin orders filing of diplomatic protest anew over presence of 287 Chinese vessels in WPS

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 13) — The country's foreign affairs chief on Thursday ordered the filing of another diplomatic protest against China after 287 of its vessels were spotted still in Palawan's Kalayaan town in the West Philippine Sea.

"@DFAPHL fire diplomatic protest," Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted.

He also lambasted the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) for failing to inform the Department of Foreign Affairs about updates on the presence of Chinese vessels prior to releasing a statement to the media.

The task force on Wednesday reported that 287 Chinese vessels suspected to be maritime militia remain scattered over various parts of Kalayaan, both within and outside the country’s exclusive economic zone, as of May 9.

Based on the latest maritime patrol, 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 (Thitu) Island, Zamora (Subi) Reef, Panata Island (Lankiam Cay), 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.

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.