According to the news of the “Rappler” website broadcasting from the Philippines, the Philippine Coast Guard stated that 42 fishing vessels, which are estimated to be “China’s civilian naval militia”, were detected around the island.
Authorities also announced that a Chinese navy ship and a coast guard ship were sailing in the waters in the disputed region.
While the Chinese Embassy in Manila declined to comment on the matter, the ship traffic is likely to cause tension between the two countries.
Philippines’ most strategic base
Thitu Island, part of the Spartly Islands, which is the subject of a sovereignty dispute between riparian countries in the South China Sea, is the Philippines’ most strategic base in the region.
The island, which the Philippines calls “Pag-asa”, is located 480 kilometers west of Palawan state between Malaysia and the Philippines.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. summoned the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines last month to warn against the frequency and intensification of its activities in the South China Sea.
In a statement, Marcos Jr. criticized China for its “aggressive activities” in the region, saying that they “will not give up a single inch”.
China claims 80 percent of the South China Sea with the map it first published in 1947. Claims in the region, which is rich in submarine resources, lead to sovereignty conflicts with coastal neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia, especially the Philippines.
The countries in the region and the United States are opposed to the Beijing administration’s construction of bases on the disputed islands in the region based on its claims of sovereignty, its presence with civilian ship fleets as well as its military capacity.