The Philippines looks set to call China’s bluff in a bold attempt to challenge Beijing’s naval aggression in the South China Sea. This comes amid mounting tensions between the two powers. Manila has repeatedly called on Beijing to withdraw its “maritime militia” vessels within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China.
The leader of the Philippines Armed Forces Cirilito Sobejana promised to respond after confirming that China had “not honoured” agreements between the two countries.
He told reporters that China had been building structures in the West Philippine Sea, and the Philippines would respond by also building structures in the sea.
Earlier this week the Philippines lashed out at China’s “blatant disregard” over a previous commitment to peace and stability in the region.
Maritime authorities have spotted a total of 165 Chinese vessels within its EEZ, prompting Philippines to launch two more diplomatic protests again Beijing.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, has since warned that the presence of the Chinese vessels could spark “unwanted hostilities” in the region.
Hundreds of Chinese militia vessels were first spotted “swarming” near the Philippines coastline by the Whitsun reef in early March.
The vessels were later reported to have moved even more widely into other parts of the Philippine EEZ.
Manila has claimed that China has “blatantly infringed upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction”.
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered an increase in what he calls “sovereignty patrols”.
During a televised briefing on Monday, Mr Duterte made the pledge despite accepting that sending ships to contest the South China Sea will likely lead to violence with Beijing.
The ‘maritime militia’ surrounding the Philippines comes months after China authorised its coast guard to fire on ‘foreign’ vessels in Chinese-claimed portions of the South China Sea.
Also in the news, a US spy plane is reported to have patrolled the Chinese coast on Tuesday during a live fire exercise from one of Beijing’s Liaoning aircraft carrier strike group.