135 Chinese vessels swarm reef

135 Chinese vessels swarm reef

THE NUMBER of Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels swarming the area of Julian Felipe Reef, about 175 nautical miles west of Palawan, has reached 135 over the weekend, according to the Philippine Coast Guard.

In a statement on Sunday, Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan said the number was based on the monitoring conducted by PCG vessels BRP Sindangan and BRP Cabra.

“No response was made to the radio challenges issued by the PCG to the CMM vessels which is now estimated to have grown to more than 135 vessels dispersed and scattered within Julian Felipe Reef,” read part of the statement.

Julian Felipe Reef is considered a low tide elevation within the territorial sea of relevant high tide features in the Kalayaan Island Group, including Chigua Reef, over which the Philippines asserts sovereignty.

Since Nov. 13 when over a hundred Chinese vessels were reported swarming the vicinity of the reef, National Security Adviser and National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea Chairman Eduardo Año has ordered the regular deployment of PCG vessels in the area to safeguard maritime security, the marine environment and the country’s sovereign rights over the territory. — Nate C. Barretto