Philippines accuses China of ‘incursion’ in disputed sea
The Philippines yesterday accused China of "incursion" after more than 200 militia boats were spotted near a disputed reef in the South China Sea, in a rare rebuke of its superpower neighbour.
The Philippine coast guard detected the boats "in line formation" at the boomerang-shaped Whitsun Reef around 320 kilometres (175 nautical miles) west of Palawan Island on March 7.
"We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory," Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement.
"This is a clear provocative action of militarizing the area. These are territories well within Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone."
Lorenzana said the government was considering "appropriate action" to take to protect Filipino fishermen, the country's marine resources and maintain peace and stability in the area.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said on Twitter he had lodged a diplomatic protest over the ships.
The Chinese embassy in Manila did not respond to a request for comment.
The United States has previously accused China of using maritime militia to "intimidate, coerce and threaten other nations" over its claims to almost the entire South China Sea.
The resource-rich waterway is also contested by several countries, including the Philippines.
China has ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared its assertion as without basis.