Philippines are criticizing Beijing over the presence of Chinese vessels near disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The Philippine Foreign Ministry released a statement on Thursday regarding the Pag-asa Islands. Military data shows the Philippines has monitored more than 200 Chinese boats near Thitu, or Pagasa, as it is known locally, from January to March this year
Besides the Philippines, Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing claims of sovereignty in the busy waterway, a conduit for goods in excess of $3.4 trillion every year.
The Philippines effectively controls the islands, which are part of the Spratly Island chain. The ministry reiterated its stance that the Pag-asa islands are an integral part of the Philippines. It described the presence of Chinese ships in the area as “swarming,” and said it “clearly violates Philippine sovereign rights and jurisdiction.”
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said later in the day that the two countries have agreed to resolve outstanding issues based on a spirit of cooperation.
The Philippine President’s spokesperson said 275 Chinese vessels have been spotted around the Pag-asa Islands since January.
He said the Philippines has lodged a protest with Beijing over the matter.
It’s unusual for the Philippine government to criticize China.
Lately, President Rodrigo Duterte has been seeking closer ties with Beijing.