photo: Western Command, AFP

Chinese fishing vessels continue to swarm in three key areas in the West Philippine Sea, the Western Command (Wecom) has disclosed citing its recent aerial patrols.

In a statement, the Wescom said the heightened presence of Chinese fishing vessels were noticed in Rozul (Iroquios) Reef with 23 Chinese fishing vessels present, Escoda (Sabina) Shoal with five vessels and in Baragatan (Nares) Bank, with two vessels during the aerial patrols conducted on Sept. 6 and 7.


“The increased presence of Chinese fishing vessels raises concerns regarding the potential implications for Philippines’ maritime security, fisheries conservation, territorial integrity, and preservation of the marine environment,” the statement read.


“These activities have been a source of tension in the WPS and have contributed to instability in the region,” it stressed.


During the Aug. 24 aerial patrol, the Wescom said it has monitored 33 Chinese fishing vessels at the Rozul Reef is located within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.


The intrusion, according to Wescom, is a clear intrusion a violation of Philippine sovereign rights and jurisdiction and harmful in the environment as it was also monitored that the Chinese fishermen have been harvesting massive corals in the area


In Sabina Shoal, which the Wescom described as a marker for the approach at the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, swarming activities of Chinese fishing vessels were also observed late last month.


It is near the Sabina Shoal where harassments of Chinese vessels usually occur.

“As the Chinese swarming activity resurges, the Philippines continues to remain vigilant and take necessary measures to safeguard its vital national interests and maintain stability in the region,” the Wescom statement read.


“The collaboration between the defense forces, law enforcement agencies, and international partners is crucial in addressing these challenges, upholding the Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction and maintaining stability in the region,” it added.