tirsdag 6. april 2021

Philippines warns China of ‘unwanted hostilities’ in sea dispute

The presence of Chinese vessels at a disputed reef off the Philippines could ignite “unwanted hostilities”, a top aide to President Rodrigo Duterte has warned, intensifying a diplomatic spat over the ships that Manila described as “maritime militia”.

More than 200 Chinese boats were first spotted on March 7 at Whitsun Reef, approximately 320 kilometres (175 nautical miles) west of Palawan Island within the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).Most of them have since scattered across the Spratly Islands but last week dozens of the Chinese-flagged vessels were still anchored at the boomerang-shaped reef, according to Philippine military patrols.

For weeks Manila has called on Beijing to withdraw the “maritime militia” vessels, saying their incursion into the Philippines’s EEZ is illegal as defined by the International Court of Arbitration at The Hague. But China – which claims almost the entirety of the resource-rich sea – has refused, insisting they are fishing boats sheltering from bad weather and are allowed to be there.