MANILA — The Philippines is protesting the presence of more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels anchored at Whitsun Reef, a shallow coral region located 175 nautical miles (324 kilometers) west of the town of Bataraza in Palawan province. In addition to invoking sovereignty issues, the ships’ presence at the reef has raised fears that China may be targeting the reef for island-building activities to strengthen its claim to disputed territories in the South China Sea. Around 220 blue-hulled Chinese fishing vessels have been moored in line formation at Whitsun Reef, known as Julian Felipe Reef to Filipinos, since as early as March 7, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said in a statement released March 20. New satellite images released March 26 show the ships, in varying numbers, may have been anchored at Whitsun since December 2020, three months longer than previously reported. The task force, a multi-agency body chaired by the Philippines’ national security adviser, noted “possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to safety of navigation” in what the Philippine government calls the West Philippine Sea, the country’s western maritime border that forms part of the South China Sea. Approximately 200 Chinese fishing vessels have been anchored in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef. Image courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines The South China Sea is the subject of heated geopolitical disputes and overlapping territorial claims. It’s also a known spawning ground for various fish species. The competition for…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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