Philippines Blasts ‘Illegal’ Presence Of Chinese Vessels

Tensions continue to rise in the South China Sea as the Philippines move to counter an “alarming” surge in Chinese vessels in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) deployed two vessels in response to Chinese militia watercraft at a reef near the islands. The number of boats increased in recent weeks to over 135 along the Whitsun Reef.

This natural formation is more than 600 miles from the nearest major Chinese landmass. Tensions between the two nations rose sharply after the inauguration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as Philippine president in 2022.

The Philippines has a 200-nautical mile EEZ that it refers to as the West Philippine Sea. The PCG issued a statement declaring its “unwavering commitment to safeguarding maritime security, safety, and the marine environment.”

This comes at a time of increased activity in the area by Beijing as it aggressively lays claim to the maritime region. In 2016, an international tribunal rejected China’s claim to 90% of the South China Sea, but the communist government rejected the conclusion.

Instead, Beijing built islands complete with airstrips across the disputed waters to further establish its claims. These actions are also countered by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam, which have their own territorial claims.

The area is increasingly seen as a flash point for tensions between the Chinese government and the interests of the United States. China accused Manila of aligning with “foreign forces” to patrol the sea, while Philippine officials assert that they are within their territorial rights.

Alliances with the U.S. are seen as critical to counter China’s boisterous activities. Just days ago the Philippines conducted joint military exercises with the U.S. in the South China Sea.

These were followed by similar air and sea patrols carried out with Australia, much to the dismay of Chinese communists.

President Joe Biden warned in October that the U.S. will defend its regional allies if they are attacked. His admonition came immediately after a pair of collisions between Filipino and Chinese boats in the South China Sea.

It is imperative that the U.S. act from a position of strength when dealing with the Chinese threat. Manila is a close ally, and it is well within its international rights to counteract aggression from the mainland.