(dpa) – Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr on Wednesday ordered the filing of another diplomatic protest against China as 240 Chinese vessels were sighted scattered in the contested South China Sea.
“Fire a diplomatic protest now,” Locsin said on Twitter.
On Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs summoned Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian over “the illegal lingering presence” of Chinese vessels in Whitsun Reef.
The national task force on the South China Sea in its updated report denounced “the continuous swarming by Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia which are claimed by Chinese authorities to be ordinary fishing vessels.”
The military sighted 240 coast guard and militia vessels as well as 21 warships of the People Liberation Army (PLA) Navy deployed in various areas of the sealane.
“All these warships of the PLA Navy contribute to the militarization of the area,” the task force said.
Since last month, the Philippines has been demanding the withdrawal of Chinese militia ships in Whitsun Reef. There were 220 ships recorded on March 7.
The task force said the number of ships at Whitsun Reep was down to nine but more ships were moored at around eight other islands and reefs within the country’s territorial waters.
It said combined presence of the Chinese navy, coast guard and militia vessels in Philippine waters “is prejudicial to the peace and security of the region.”
The Philippines won an arbitration case against China in an international tribunal in 2016 over its expansive claims in the South China Sea. China refused to accept the ruling.