China coast guard ships illegally remain in West Philippine Sea — task force

Philstar

April 28, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — At least five China Coast Guard (CCG) ships have been spotted in several areas in the West Philippine Sea, a government task force reported.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) reported continued illegal presence of three CCG ships in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, one in the municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan and another one in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

"These incursions are under review for the possible filing of appropriate diplomatic actions," the NTF-WPS said in a statement released Wednesday.

Citing the Philippine Coast Guard, the NTF-WPS noted that there were no direct incidents between the CCG and Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea from April 15 to 22.

"Our government shall not waver in pursuing peaceful, rules-based and proactive initiatives on environmental protection, safety of navigation, maritime and food security within our maritime domains," the task force added.

Just last week, the Department of Foreign Affairs filed additional diplomatic protests over the continuing presence of at least 160 Chinese fishing and maritime militia vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine government has also been continuously deploying vessels for maritime law enforcement, monitoring, ensuring the safety of Filipino fishermen and protecting the government, the task force said.

The NTF-WPS also called on "all stakeholders" in the region to maintain their respective commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

Last weekend, the PCG conducted maritime patrols in Kalayaan and Panatag Shoal as part of its Task Force Pagsasanay.

Beijing, however, called on Manila to stop activities and exercises in the West Philippine Sea, claiming that they have sovereignty over the entire area.

"We urge the relevant side to respect China's sovereignty and rights and interests, and stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Monday.

Wang insisted that China has sovereignty over Panatag Shoal and Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, where the PCG recently conducted maritime exercises.

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