The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said in a statement March 31 that during a maritime patrol on March 29 in WPS four Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy were spotted at Panganiban Reef, internationally known as Mischief Reef.
“Four (4) People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels are also at Panganiban Reef, which forms part of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf of the main Philippine archipelago,” NTF-WPS said.
“On 29 March 2021, forty-four (44) CMM remain moored, anchored, and stationary at Julian Felipe Reef. In addition, one hundred fifteen (115) CMM vessels are now monitored in Chigua (Kennan) Reef, forty-five (45) vessels in Pag-asa (Thitu) Islands and the other fifty (50) vessels are dispersed in Panganiban (Mischief), Kagitingan (Fiery), and Zamora (Subi) Reefs, all within the Kalayaan Island Group,” the government task force also said.
The NTF-WPS also maintained that by its observation that the so-called “fishing vessels” are maritime militia.
“Their build-up and massing formation from Julian Felipe Reef to other areas of the Kalayaan Island Group is hazardous to navigation and safety of life at sea. They may be doing illicit activities at night and their lingering (swarming) presence may cause irreparable damage to the marine environment due to marine pollution and destruction of coral reefs. Their swarming also poses a threat to the peaceful exercise of sovereign rights of the Philippines in its EEZ,” it added.
Also on March 31, United States and Philippines National Security Advisors Jake Sullivan and Hermogenes Esperon talked through phone with Chinese Maritime Militia vessels in Juan Felipe (Whitsun) Reef as among the topic discussed.
Sullivan reaffirmed to Esperon that the United States-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty applies in the South China Sea (SCS).
“The National Security Advisors discussed their shared concerns regarding the recent massing of People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia vessels at Whitsun Reef,” US National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement.
Horne noted that “Sullivan underscored that the United States stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order, and reaffirmed the applicability of the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty in the South China Sea.”
“The National Security Advisors agreed that the United States and the Philippines will continue to coordinate closely in responding to challenges in the South China Sea,” she added.