After withdrawing from the Julian Felipe Reef when the Philippine government filed diplomatic protests, some of the Chinese vessels believed to be manned by Chinese militias still remain in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), a United States-based geospatial and data analyst firm reported on Monday, May 24.
In March, the country protested the presence of around 220 Chinese vessels believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia at the Julian Felipe Reef in the WPS.
In a data released by US geospatial intelligence firm Simularity, approximately 120 of these Chinese ships still remain in the country’s EEZ, which they are primarily located on the Philippine side of Tizard Bank in the Spratly Islands.
The report said that Chinese ships that were at Julian Reef in March, moved to McKennan (Hughes) Reef in April, and are now currently gathered at Burgos (Gaven) Reef.
In a satellite images released by Simularity on April 28, there were approximately 11 Chinese ships in the Julian Felipe Reef, 158 ships at McKennan Reef, and 87 ships at Burgos Reef.
Based on the satellite images on May 13, no ships were detected at Julian Felipe Reef and McKennan Reef, however, there were 234 ships spotted in the Burgos Reef.
“It is likely that the majority of those ships remained in the Union Banks near [McKennan] Reef in April, and then left [McKennan] Reef for Gaven [Burgos] Reef in Tizard Bank in early May.
On May 13 to May 18, the firm said 261 ships moored in the areas of Spratly Islands and vast majority of these ships “strong resemble the ships that swarmed in Julian Felipe Reef in March.”
“Assuming some of these ships may be Coast Guard, and a few might not be Chinese, we estimate that there are approximately 250 Chinese ships in these contested areas now,” the Simularity added.
The Simularity is a company that uses geospatial data to determine when significant changes have happened to a certain area, according to its profile.
On May 12, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., chairperson of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS), said the Chinese vessels spotted at the Julian Felipe Reef were part of a total of 287 CMM vessels scattered in the WPS during the latest patrol on May 9.
During the maritime exercises and sovereignty patrols, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ships drove away seven foreign ships believed to be manned by Chinese militias from the Sabina Shoal in the WPS on April 27.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has repeatedly filed diplomatic protests against the repeated incursion of Chinese vessels in the Philippine’s EEZ.