The more than 200 Chinese ‘fishing vessels’ that amassed near the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) for weeks should be on their way to their home ports by now, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. suggested in a tweet on Tuesday.
He made this observation after a ‘new’ satellite image purportedly taken on March 28 showing only a handful of Chinese vessels left in and around the Julian Felipe Reef surfaced on social media.
“Meanwhile, someone (should) take an aerial photo of the Chinese fishing vessels; they should be going back to home ports,” the foreign affairs chief said.
On Monday, Twitter user Duan Dang posted a satellite photo of the boomerang-shaped reef with only few vessels left within its vicinity.
“The bulk of Chinese vessels anchoring as Whitsun Reef have left, according to Planet’s satellite image on March 28,” said a caption accompanying the Twitter post of Duan Dang.
On March 21, the Philippines demanded that the over 200 Chinese vessels reportedly manned by militias leave the reef that is within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
“We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement.
On the same day, Locsin said the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest over the presence of the mammoth number of Chinese vessels in the Philippine waters.
It was the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea that earlier released a photo showing more than 200 Chinese vessels moored at Julian Felipe Reef on March 7, lying side by side in formation.
“Despite clear weather at the time, the Chinese vessels massed at the reef showed no actual fishing activities and had their full white lights turned on during night-time,” said the task force which is chaired by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.