International concern is growing over what the Philippines described as a “mobilization and threatening presence” of more than 200 Chinese ships, which Manila believes were operated by maritime militias.
Boats docked at Whitsun Reef within Manila’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
Defense Secretary Delphine Lorenzana said in a statement late on Saturday that Philippine military aircraft were dispatched daily to monitor the situation.
Lorenzana said the military would reinforce its naval presence in the South China Sea to conduct “sovereign patrols” and protect Filipino fishermen.
“Our air and sea assets are ready to protect our sovereignty and our sovereign rights,” Lorenzana said.
The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment. She said the ships at Whitsun Reef were fishing boats that took refuge from rough seas and there was no militia on board.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reaffirmed to Chinese Ambassador Huang Chilian that the Philippines won a landmark arbitration case in 2016, which outlined its sovereign entitlements amid competing claims from China, his spokesman said last week.
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