China claims ownership of Julian Felipe Reef, denies presence of militia

The Chinese Embassy in Manila has claimed ownership of Julian Felipe Reef and denied presence of Chinese maritime militia. This is after the Philippine government’s National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) around 220 Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) Vessels were spotted at Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

The Chinese embassy said Julian Felipe Reef, which it calls Niu’e Jiao, “is a part of China’s Nansha Qundao (Spratly Islands). Chinese fishing vessels have been fishing in its adjacent waters for many years. Recently, some Chinese fishing vessels take shelter near Niu’e Jiao due to rough sea conditions. It has been a normal practice for Chinese fishing vessels to take shelter under such circumstances.”

“There is no Chinese Maritime Militia as alleged. Any speculation in such helps nothing but causes unnecessary irritation. It is hoped that the situation could be handled in an objective and rational manner,” the Chinese embassy added.

NTF-WPS said over the weekend that it “received a confirmed report from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that around two hundred twenty (220) Chinese Fishing Vessels (CFVs), believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, were sighted moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) on March 7, 2021.”

It noted that the said reef is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS), over which the country enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources which encompass both living resources, such as fish, and non-living resources such as oil and natural gas.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. has confirmed that a diplomatic protest was filed. National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the presence of Chinese militia boats in the area is “a clear provocative action of militarizing the area.”

“We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory,” Secretary Lorenzana added.