The Philippines’ air force has been conducting daily aerial patrols over Chinese fishing vessels moored near a disputed reef, the country’s defence chief said, as he repeated a call to Beijing for their withdrawal from the area.
The diplomatic row was touched off earlier this month when some 220 boats were first spotted at the boomerang-shaped Whitsun Reef, west of Palawan Island.
The Philippines ordered China to recall the vessels, describing their presence as an incursion into its sovereign territory.
“We are ready to defend our national sovereignty and protect the marine resources of the Philippines,” Lorenzana said late on Saturday.
He added there will be an “increased presence” of navy and coast guard ships patrolling Philippine waters.
The resource-rich South China Sea is claimed by several countries, including the Philippines and China.
But the shift has failed to stem Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea, or unlock much of the billions of dollars of promised trade and loans. »