South China Sea: Tensions as Manilla condemns Beijing over ‘threatening’ boats

Philippines to take action against China amid sea tension

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More than 200 vessels moored off the Whitsun reef back to shelter from “bad weather”, but most remain anchored in the area more than a month later. In a statement issued on Friday, the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs said 165 Chinese fishing, coast guard and maritime militia vessels were observed in the area.

The statement read: “The presence of these vessels blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.

“The continued swarming and threatening presence of the Chinese vessels creates an atmosphere of instability and is a blatant disregard of the commitments by China to promote peace and stability in the region.”

The statement comes as Philippine armed forces promised to enforce action after suggesting China had “not honoured” agreements.

Cirilito Sobejana, leader of the nation’s armed forces, told reporters China had been building structures in the West Philippine Sea and that, in response, they would build their own.

Manila also lodged two new diplomatic protests against China on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned the presence of the Chinese boats could ignite “unwanted hostilities” between two nations with historic rifts.

Manilla has been urging Beijing to withdraw the “maritime militia” since the incident was first reported, claiming the incursion into the nation’s EEZ is illegal.

However, China has denied any wrongdoing. The eastern superpower says the fishing boats are allowed to be there on historic rights despite the Hague stating Beijing’s claims are “without merit”.

The Philippine government announced a South China Sea task force would be established in an attempt to increase the nation’s military presence and respond to acts of Chinese aggression.

The task force will contain more vessels and an aircraft that will be deployed to protect the country’s maritime sovereignty.

Growing tension between the two countries also prompted the US to send an aircraft carrier to the region in support of their Philippine allies.

US ambassador to the Philippines, Jose Manual Romualdez, said Washington was waiting for the Philippines to ask for help.

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Speaking on the deployment of the US aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, he added: “We were working round the clock, so to speak, in terms of being able to navigate or making sure that there’s the freedom of the sea and the Code of Conduct that we are pushing.”

China claims over 90 percent of the resource-rich South China Sea as its own territory.

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