The Philippines on Monday warned a large Chinese fishing fleet in the Spratlys to stay clear of its waters amid a continuing face-off between the two countries over disputed territory.
Foreign Department spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Philippine coast guard would check on the location of the Chinese vessels in the South China Sea, to ensure they do not enter the country’s 200–nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“If these (ships) are going to our EEZ, we will file a protest because this is our EEZ and it is only the Philippines (that has) the sovereign right to explore, exploit and manage the resources in that area,” he told reporters.
“We require China to respect the sovereign rights of the Philippines,” he stressed.
He cited reports that the fleet of 30 fishing vessels from Hainan had arrived at a point near the Yongshu Reef in the Spratlys, parts of which are claimed by the Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China and the Philippines have been in a stand-off over disputed territory within the sea since April, when Chinese government ships prevented the Filipino navy from arresting Chinese fishermen at the Scarborough Shoal.
The Philippines withdrew its ships from the shoal in June in an effort to reduce tensions.
However China had not followed suit, said Hernandez. He said that on Friday a coast guard plane sighted three Chinese government vessels, six fishing boats, two speedboats and several small dinghies still around the Scarborough Shoal.
Chinese-Philippine tensions have increased due to the standoff, with the Philippines accusing China of “duplicity” and “intimidation” at a recent regional forum in Cambodia.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighboring countries. The Philippines says the Scarborough Shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.