Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said during March 22 press briefing that he does not think the presence of around 220 Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef in West Philippine Sea will escalate to situation similar to 2012 Scarborough standoff.
“I don’t think so po dahil mayroon po tayong malapit na pagkakaibigan. Lahat naman po ay napag-uusapan sa panig ng mga magkakaibigan at magkapit-bahay,” Secretary Roque said.
“Naprotesta na po iyan ng ating Department of Foreign Affairs matapos makumpirma ni National Security Adviser Esperon iyong mga barkong iyan. Hinahayaan ko muna po sa kanila dahil nakatutok po muna tayo dito sa COVID,” he also said.
National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement on March 21, “we view with grave concern the presence of 220 Chinese militia boats in the Julian Felipe Reef (internationally known as Whitsun Reef, located within Union Reefs) in the West Philippine Sea. This is a clear provocative action of militarizing the area. These are territories well within Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS) where Filipinos have the sole right to resources under international law and the 2016 arbitral ruling.”
“We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory,” he said.
On March 20, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS), said in a statement 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.”