44 Chinese maritime militia remain at Julian Felipe Reef – NTF WPS

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said in a statement today, March 31 that as of March 29, 44 Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels remain moored, anchored, and stationary at Julian Felipe Reef.

The NTF-WPS also reiterated “its assertion of Philippine sovereignty, and sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the KIG and West Philippine Sea (WPS), and expresses deep concern over the continuing unlawful presence (swarming) of the Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM), which did not pull out and have remained in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef and are now in other areas of the Kalayaan Island Group in the Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan.”

From March 7, the number of CMM vessels decreased from around 220 to 44, as of March 29.

“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,” NTF-WPS said.

“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,” it added.

The NTF-WPS also expressed that the Philippines appreciates the statements of support from international partners which share common adherence to rules-based order consistent with international law, including the UNCLOS, as affirmed by the 2016 Arbitral Award.

“Neither the Philippines nor the international community will ever accept China’s assertion of its so-called “indisputable integrated sovereignty” over almost all of the South China Sea, part of which is the WPS,” it added.

“The Philippines calls on China to immediately withdraw these vessels flying its flag. NTF-WPS stands by its observation that these 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,” the NTF-WPS said.