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30 Chinese maritime militia vessels spotted in Rozul Reef; Vietnam dredging continues in Kalayaan Islands

Philippine Coast Guard

Posted on June 12, 2024

At least 30 Chinese maritime militia vessels have been spotted in Rozul or Iroquois Reef on Sunday,

In a report by Chino Gaston on 24 Oras, the ships were detected via satellite imaging and shared in a social media post by security analyst Ray Powell.

The Philippine Coast Guard confirmed the swarming presence of the Chinese in the disputed waters. Rozul Reef is inside the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and is located to the south of Reed Bank where dead coral had recently been allegedly dumped.

The PCG said its patrolling BRP Datu Pagbuaya issued radio challenges to the militia vessels but there was no response.

 The militia vessels, which were not seen to be fishing, are currently being monitored by the Philippine Navy and the coast guard.

Even as the Philippines and China continue to spar over the territory, Vietnam has been conducting dredging operations of reefs it occupies in the South China Sea.

The Barque Canada Reef has reportedly doubled in size to 412 acres from its former 238 acres land area.

Expansion and construction are also happening at Discovery great Reef, Namyit Island and Pearson Reef.

In total, Vietnam has been able to reclaim a total of 692 acres or 280 hectares in the last six months.

Despite being outside the Philippine EEZ, these territories are being claimed by Manila which maintains these are part of the Kalayaan Island Group.

According to a maritime law expert, the Philippines has previously protested Vietnam’s island building in the Kalayaan Island Group.

Professor Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Laws of the Sea said, “Pero at least, pagdating dun sa mga ganyang issue, nakikita natin yung hindi ginagawa ng Vietnam yung ginagawa ng China sa atin. Nakakapag-usap tayo ng ayos.”

(When it comes to this kind of issue, Vietnam does not do what China does to us. We can talk to them properly.)

According to the PCG, Vietnam began reclaiming the maritime features they occupy before the 2002 Declaration of Conduct.

Additionally, the Vietnamese also do not harass Filipino fishermen and illegally deploying ships to surround Philippine outposts in the West Philippine Sea, said PCG Spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Jay Tarriela .

According to Powell, Vietnam may have taken advantage of China’s focus on the Philippines, “Vietnam may see this as an opportunity seeing that China is so preoccupied now with the Philippines. China doesn’t see Vietnam occupation as illegitimate, unlike the BRP Sierra Madre which it considers not a legitimate form of occupation.”

The security expert adds, “in their logic, that was not in violation of the declaration because they were just improving the places that they already were whereas they don’t recognize the BRP Sierra Madre being a legitimate occupation.”

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año described the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s assertion that the Philippines needs to notify them for access  to Ayungin Shoal that is within the country’s EEZ as “absurd, nonsense and unacceptable.”

“We do not and will never need China’s approval for any of our activities therein,” he added


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