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China warships in WPS ‘worrisome’

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President Marcos said Wednesday the presence of Chinese warships in waters off the Southeast Asian country’s coast was “worrisome.”

His comments came after the Philippine Coast Guard said Chinese navy vessels were detected last week during a government resupply mission to fishermen near China-controlled Scarborough Shoal.

“It’s worrisome,” Mr. Marcos told reporters before departing for Australia, where he will attend an ASEAN summit. “Previously, only the China Coast Guard was operating in our area. Now their navy has joined in, along with fishing boats. So, the situation is changing.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said the government will continue to file diplomatic protests over the illegal incursions of China to show the whole world that the Philippines is not surrendering its claim over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Gonzales stressed that the recent illegal activities of China in the Philippines’ territory and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) should not go unnoticed.

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“We have to show to the world that we are not relinquishing our claim. For us to be silent, for example someone did something like this, it’s gone, we didn’t notice it, so other countries who are supportive of our cause will also lose interest if we ourselves cannot show any interest,” Gonzales, the chair of the House Special Committee on the WPS, said at a news conference.

President Marcos was expected to raise the current tension in the WPS during his visits to Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday, citing Manila’s strategic partnership with Canberra.

“Yes, we have very strong defense and security relations with Australia, they have been partners with us for a long time, even before the official establishment of relations, because they were with us as partners during World War II and now the relations have actually seen an elevation from comprehensive to strategic partnership,” DFA spokesperson Teresita Daza confirmed.

President Marcos has insisted Manila would continue to “defend our maritime territory” and said Filipino fishermen should be allowed to fish in the country’s waters.

Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, a triangular chain of reefs and rocks, lies 240 kilometers west of Luzon and nearly 900 kilometers from the nearest major Chinese land mass of Hainan.

China seized the shoal from the Philippines in 2012 and has since deployed coast guard and other vessels that Manila says harass Philippine ships and prevent its fishermen from accessing a fish-rich lagoon there.

In the latest incident, a vessel belonging to the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources received a radio challenge from a Chinese warship on Feb. 21 as it sailed towards the shoal, the Philippine Coast Guard said on Sunday.

Another Chinese navy ship was detected 18.5 kilometers from the BRP Datu Sanday as it distributed fuel to Filipino fishermen near the reef on Feb. 23, the coast guard said.

The Philippine Coast Guard also accused Chinese coast guard and other vessels of attempting to block the Datu Sanday near Scarborough Shoal on Feb. 22. With AFP

Editor’s Note: This is an updated article. Originally posted with the headline “Warship sightings over WPS worries Marcos.”

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