By ROGER M. BALANZA
About 240 Chinese vessels have been spotted in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) demanded anew on Tuesday withdraw its vessels in the area under the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The presence of the Chinese vessels in the WPS, acknowledged by the Permanent Arbitral Court as Philippine territory , was reported by the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) also on Tuesday .
The NTF-WPS, in a statement, denounced the continued presence in the WPS of Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) and maritime militia.
Chinese authorities claim that the ships are ordinary fishing vessels.
According to the AFP Western Command, it found in the WPS in its latest round of sovereignty patrols conducted 11 April, Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels in the territorial waters of the Municipality of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan and the EZZ
“These 240 CMM vessels, now dispersed at the Pagkakaisa (Union) Banks and Pag-asa Islands, are about sixty (60) meters in length. A minimum estimate that each can catch one (1) ton of fish amounts to a conservative total of 240,000 kilos of fish illegally taken from Philippine waters every single day that the massed Chinese fishing vessels remain in the West Philippine Sea. These acts fall under illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF),” said the NTF-WPS in a statement.
“During an earlier patrol by the Philippine Coast Guard, Chinese poachers were likewise observed collecting giant clams in the vicinity of the Pag-asa Islands. The poachers quickly departed when approached by the Philippine Coast Guard. This act is a blatant violation of Philippine fisheries and wildlife laws, and the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),” NTF-WPS said.
“The continuous swarming of Chinese vessels poses a threat to the safety of navigation, safety of life at sea, and impedes the exclusive right of Filipinos to benefit from the marine wealth in the EEZ,” the NTF-WPS said.
“The Philippine government reiterates its demand upon China to withdraw all its vessels from the Municipality of Kalayaan and the Philippine EEZ,” it added.
The task force said further that “in keeping with its role as a development partner, China should take the Philippine representations seriously and respect Philippine sovereignty, rights and interests in consonance with the further strengthening of Philippine-China bilateral relations.”