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China plans to further occupy South China Sea 'features': Philippines Defence Chief

ANI | Updated: Apr 04, 2021 18:26 IST

Manila [Philippines], April 4 (ANI): The Philippines' defence chief Delfin Lorenzana on Sunday said the continued presence of Chinese maritime militias around the Whitsun Reef reveals their intent to further occupy features in the West Philippine Sea.
This comes as Lorenzana has repeated calls for the Chinese boats to leave Whitsun Reef (Julian Felipe Reef), located within its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
"The continued presence of Chinese maritime militias in the area reveals their intent to further occupy features in the West Philippine Sea. They have done this before at Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc and at Panganiban Reef brazenly violating Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights under international law," Lorenzana said in a statement.
"China should respect Philippine sovereignty over the Kalayaan Islands ( Spratly Islands), and its sovereign rights over its Exclusive Economic Zone as defined by UNCLOS and affirmed by the arbitral award," he added.
On Saturday, the Philippines' defence chief had called out Beijing to explain why there are 44 Chinese ships massed in the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun) in the South China Sea.
Earlier this week, the US and the Philippines raised concerns over the presence of China's maritime militia vessels near the disputed Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea.
The White House in a statement said the National Security Advisors from the US and Philippines discussed their shared concerns regarding the recent massing of People's Armed Forces Maritime Militia vessels at Whitsun Reef.
Last month, the Philippines announced the deployment of additional navy ships to the South China Sea after over 200 Chinese vessels were spotted in the Whitsun Reef. Later, the Philippines also filed a diplomatic protest over the issue.
On Monday, US Secretary Antony Blinken had come out in support of the Philippines after "China's maritime militia" massed Chinese vessels at a boomerang-shaped Whitsun Reef in the West Philippine sea.
The Whitsun Reef belongs to the Spratly archipelago, the territory of which is claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
China considers the Spratly archipelago to be its territory, despite the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling, which said there was no legal basis for China's maritime claims. The arbitration proceeding was initiated by the Philippines in January 2013, Sputnik reported. (ANI)