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Philippines flags 'incursions' by nearly 300 Chinese militia boats

CommoditiesMay 12, 2021 20:20
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MANILA, May 12 (Reuters) - The Philippines on Wednesday
reported what it said were incursions into its exclusive
economic zone (EEZ) by 287 maritime militia vessels from China,
in a further sign of cracks reappearing in a relationship after
a period of rapprochement.
"This incident along with continued illegal incursions of
foreign vessels sighted near Philippine-held islands have been
submitted to relevant agencies for the possible diplomatic
actions," the task force on the South China Sea said in a
statement.
The Philippine foreign ministry has repeatedly complained to
China in recent weeks about a "swarming and threatening
presence" of Chinese vessels in its EEZ and has demanded they be
withdrawn.
The Philippines has recently boosted its presence in the
South China Sea through "sovereignty patrols", in a show of
defiance that critics say has been lacking under its pro-China
president, Rodrigo Duterte, who has drawn domestic flak for his
refusal to stand up to Beijing.
There was no immediate response to a request for comment
from the Chinese embassy in Manila.
Experts say China's fleet fishing boats and coastguard are
central to its strategic ambitions in the South China Sea,
maintaining a constant presence that complicates fishing and
offshore energy activities by other coastal states.
Chinese officials have previously denied there are militia
aboard its fishing boats.
Duterte caused a stir last week when he said a landmark 2016
ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that went in the
Philippines' favour in a dispute with China was just a "piece of
paper" that he could throw in the trash.
The tribunal also ruled that China's claims to almost the
entire South China Sea where about $3 trillion worth of
ship-borne trade passes each year, had no legal basis.
Defence and security analyst Jose Antonio Custodio said
Duterte's comments "cancels-out" the tougher tone being taken
with China by his top diplomats and defence chiefs.
"We don't have unity in messaging," Custodio said. "That is
encouraging China's actions."

Philippines flags 'incursions' by nearly 300 Chinese militia boats
 

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