PH protests return of over 100 Chinese vessels operating illegally within Julian Felipe Reef

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The Philippines has lodged yet another protest against China, this time for the return of more than 100 Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement on Thursday that the vessels were detected unlawfully operating in the area in April — about a year after the similar swarming event was reported in the area.

The Julian Felipe Reef is located within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. The Kalayaan Island Group, which contains the Chigua Reef, is claimed to have a low-tide elevation. Manila claims sovereignty over the disputed waters.

“The persistent swarming of Chinese vessels is contrary to international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the final and binding 2016 Arbitral Award,” the DFA said.

The DFA also urged China to fulfill its obligations “under international law, cease and desist from displaying illegal and irresponsible behavior, avoid further escalating tensions at sea and immediately withdraw all of its vessels from Philippine maritime zones.”

“The lingering unauthorized presence of Chinese fishing and maritime vessels is not only illegal, but is also a source of instability in the region,” the Philippines said.

Last week, the Philippine government also submitted a diplomatic protest against Beijing for unilaterally imposing a fishing restriction in the West Philippine Sea.

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