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PH apprehensive over huge Chinese ‘fishing fleet’

THE Philippines has called on China to withdraw more than 200 ships allegedly encroaching upon its territorial waters in the South China Sea.

Photos released by the Philippine coast guard show about 220 Chinese vessels moored at Whitsun Reef (called Julian Felipe Reef by the Philippines) in the South China Sea on 7 March.

Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana said the Chinese ships were violating the Philippines’ maritime rights.

He said the fishing boats do not appear to be fishing and are crewed by China’s maritime militia.

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

He accused the Chinese of a “provocative action of militarizing the area”.

China downplays reports that it uses fishing fleets to help assert its territorial claims.

Five years ago, an international court rejected Chinese claims of sovereignty over 90% of the water mass.

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam have all been disputing China’s claim to almost all of the Sea for years.

China continues to claim an area known as the “ninedash line” and has supported its claim with island-building and patrols, expanding its military presence while maintaining that its intentions are peaceful.