4 Chinese Navy ships, 254 maritime militia vessels 'swarm' Spratlys, West Philippine Sea–NTF-WPS

The National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea said Chinese maritime militia vessels previously stationed in Julian Felipe Reef have now spread to other areas within the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratlys) and the West Philippine Sea.

4 Chinese Navy ships, 254 maritime militia vessels 'swarm' Spratlys, West Philippine Sea–NTF-WPS

"The NTF-WPS reiterates its assertion of Philippine sovereignty, and sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the KIG and 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," the task force said in a statement released Wednesday.

The task force said it has conducted three rounds of routine aerial and maritime sovereignty patrol missions.

"The number CMM recorded at 220 on March 7, 2021 remained high at 183 on March 22 and 199 on March 27. On March 29, 2021, forty-four (44) CMM remain moored, anchored, and stationary at Julian Felipe Reef. In addition, 115 CMM vessels are now monitored in Chigua (Kennan) Reef, 45 vessels in Pag-asa (Thitu) Islands and the other 50 vessels are dispersed in Panganiban (Mischief), Kagitingan (Fiery), and Zamora (Subi) Reefs, all within the Kalayaan Island Group."

"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," the task force added.

The task force said the country appreciates the statements of support from its international partners who 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 said.

"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."

4 Chinese Navy ships, 254 maritime militia vessels 'swarm' Spratlys, West Philippine Sea–NTF-WPS

"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 task force added.

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