The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF WPS) on Wednesday said a maritime patrol on May 9 spotted the presence of 287 Chinese vessels scattered over the various features of the Municipality of Kalayaan, both within and outside the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the country.
Bigger groupings of Chinese vessels were sighted at the artificial islands built by China while some were observed near islands occupied by the Philippines, a statement signed by NTF WPS chair and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. showed.
The body said the Philippine maritime patrol sighted two Chinese vessels and two Houbei-class missile warships inside Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, one Chinese vessel off Lawak (Nanshan) Island, 11 Chinese vessels located approximately 29 nautical miles southwest of Recto (Reed) Bank; and another Chinese vessel off Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.
A Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel was seen at the shoal during an earlier patrol last May 7.
“As for the features forming part of the Pagkakaisa (Union) Banks, the 9 May 2021 maritime patrol reported the presence of 34 Chinese fishing boats at Juan Felipe (Whitsun) Reef (JFR), two Vietnamese (VN) logistics/supply ships, and one VN Coast Guard vessel at Sin Cowe East (Grierson) Reef and 77 Chinese fishing boats in Chigua Reef,” the NTF WPS said.
The body also emphasized that Julian Felipe Reef is a low tide elevation (LTE) located 175 nautical miles from Bataraza, Palawan, and within the country’s 200-nautical mile EEZ.
From May 3 to 10, the Area Task Force–North reported an average of four CCG vessels at Bajo de Masinloc (BdM) (Scarborough Shoal), and an average of one CCG each for both the Pag-asa Islands and Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.
“Despite China’s illegal unilateral ‘fishing ban’ covering its fishing vessels in waters north of 12 degrees latitude in the South China Sea, from 1 May to August 16, 2021, two Chinese fishing boats were nonetheless observed were nonetheless observed harvesting shells inside the lagoon of the BdM,” NTF WPS said.
It also reported that an average of 10 Filipino fishing boats were seen fishing inside the BdM lagoon from May 7 to 9.
“The ATF-West 9 May 2021 maritime patrol reported 14 Chinese fishing boats and one Chinese Coast Guard vessels and one CCG vessel positioned off the main Pag-asa Island, and 16 Chinese fishing boats at Zamora (Subi) Reef. An earlier 6 May 2021 patrol sighted 24 Chinese fishing boats, complemented by one CCG anchored at the Pag-asa Cays showing no visible activity,” the body said. SOVEREIGNPH