Newly released aerial photos confirmed observations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regarding Chinese ships near Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef), bolstering analyses that these vessels form part of China’s maritime militia.
Based on satellite images taken by Maxar Technologies and distributed by Reuters on Thursday, March 25, the Chinese ships are moored in line formation in Juan Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea, as reported by the Philippine military.
Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said in a message to Rappler that the formation of the ships signifies they plan to stay longer in the seascape.
The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea announced on Sunday, March 21, that the Philippine Coast Guard spotted Chinese vessels roaming Julian Felipe Reef on March 7.
On Monday, March 22, the AFP confirmed the presence of the ships believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia in the boomerang-shaped reef 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.
The Philippines immediately filed a diplomatic protest condemning the latest actions of China in the disputed seas. However, China denied the allegations and said that those ships are only fishing boats.
Batongbacal further warned that the presence of Chinese vessels in the reef could be the next “escalation point” for China to claim another territory. – Rappler.com