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Manila: Chinese ships ‘loitering’ near disputed island

MANILA: The Philippines said on Saturday they sighted a Chinese naval ship and dozens of militia ships around a contested Philippine-held island in the South China Sea as territorial tensions in the region rise.

The Philippine Coast Guard said 42 vessels believed to be manned by members of the Chinese Maritime Militia were seen near Thitu Island, while a Chinese Navy vessel and a Coast Guard vessel “loitered slowly in the surrounding waters.” .

The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegation.

Thitu, in the Spratly Island Chain, is Manila’s largest and most strategic outpost in the South China Sea, a body of water largely claimed by Beijing and where several countries have conflicting territorial claims.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said two weeks ago the Philippines would not lose “an inch” of territory as Southeast Asians protested China’s “aggressive activities” in the sea.

Thitu, known locally as Pag-asa, is located about 480 kilometers west of the western Philippine province of Palawan. The island is home to over 400 people, including military and law enforcement personnel, and is used by Manila to maintain its territorial claim.

Experts say China’s fishing fleet and coast guard are central to its strategic ambitions in the South China Sea, maintaining a steady presence that complicates other coastal states’ fishing and offshore energy activities.

“Their continued unauthorized presence is clearly contrary to the right of innocent passage and constitutes a flagrant violation of the Philippines’ territorial integrity,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Marcos last month subpoenaed the Chinese ambassador to complain about the intensity and frequency of China’s actions in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has filed 77 complaints against China’s activities in the sea, including an allegation that a Chinese Coast Guard ship aimed a “military laser” at a Philippine Coast Guard ship on a supply mission on February 6.

China claims sovereignty over the Spratlys, while Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam all have competing claims to some or all of the islands.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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