Bejing, Mar 25 (Bureau) The Philippines will deploy additional navy ships to the disputed South China Sea, referred to as the West Philippine Sea by Manila, to step up maritime sovereignty patrols amid a fresh standoff with China, the official PNA news agency reported on Thursday. Over the past weekend, the Philippine Coast Guard said about 200 vessels believed to be part of the Chinese maritime militia were seen attached in a line formation in the Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea. The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest over the issue and demanded these vessels leave the area. Beijing, in turn, denied that the boats belonged to the maritime militia.
According to the spokesperson for the country’s armed forces, Edgard Arevalo, the measure aims at reassuring the Filipino people that the military remains committed to protecting them. “By the increased naval presence in the area, we seek to reassure our people of the AFP’s strong and unwavering commitment to protect and defend them from harassment and ensure that they can enjoy their rights over the country’s rich fishing ground which is the source of their livelihood,” Arevalo was quoted as saying. The Asia-Pacific region features several territorial disputes in the South China and East China seas that involve Brunei China, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. China considers the Spratly archipelago to be its territory, despite the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling, which said there was no legal basis for China’s maritime claims. The arbitration proceeding was initiated by the Philippines in January 2013.