MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines on Wednesday said its maritime patrols had twice driven Chinese vessels away from a shoal within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
It was the first time since President Duterte took office in 2016 that the government disclosed such a move by Philippine ships against Chinese vessels.
The action by ships from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) followed an escalation of the maritime dispute between Manila and Beijing when more than 200 Chinese maritime militia vessels swarmed Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in March.
The presence of the Chinese vessels prompted several diplomatic protests by the Philippines demanding that China withdraw all its vessels from the West Philippine Sea and waters within the country’s 370-kilometer EEZ.
Fishing ban rejected
The Philippine government also rejected China’s fishing ban in the South China Sea that included parts of the country’s EEZ and told Filipino fishermen to ignore it.
China, which claims nearly the entire South China Sea, annually imposes the prohibition on a large swath of the waterway from May 1 to Aug. 16 purportedly to conserve fishery resources.