At least two Chinese vessels have been surveying Recto Bank (Reed Bank) for at least a "week" already without the proper clearance, Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Bacordo said on Monday, August 10.
"It has come to my attention, the presence of two Chinese surveillance vessels in Recto Bank. Right now, I think there is only one," Bacordo said in a press briefing organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
He added: "We have checked if they have any clearance to conduct survey in that area and we found out that there is none." (READ: LOOK: Chinese survey ship found operating in PH waters)
Bacordo said they concluded that the vessels were surveying the area because they were moving at 3 knots or around 5.5 kilometers per hour.
"You are only doing that if you are conducting actual survey," Bacordo added.
Recto Bank is an underwater reef formation that belongs to the Philippines, but is coveted by China because it is said to contain huge reserves of oil and natural gas in the West Philippine Sea.
China and the Philippines are currently in talks over a joint exploration for the West Philippine Sea. They started in October 2019, but talks have been delayed in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Not even the virus, however, has stopped China from continuing its campaign to assert its dominance in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Beijing continues South China Sea aggression during pandemic)
Under President Rodrigo Duterte, the military has been directed to avoid all risks of confrontation, going as far as banning the Navy from participating in joint drills in the area.
Bacordo said they will file a report on the incident and will ask the Department of Foreign Affairs to file a diplomatic protest. – Rappler.com