Home Asia Philippines reacts to the Chinese ‘fishing fleet’ in South China Sea

Philippines reacts to the Chinese ‘fishing fleet’ in South China Sea

Maritime security is one of the important aspects of international politics. A sea is a boon for any country geographically but leads to strategic issues. On 23rd March 2021, Philippines raised an alarm against China after witnessing the entry of more than 200 Chinese ships within its territory. This was done at the 28th ASEAN-New Zealand virtual Dialogue held.The coast guards of Philippines released pictures showing a fleet of Chinese ships at the Whitsun Reef. The reef lies within the economic exclusive zones of Philippines. This has created much frenzy and the Chinese behaviour in focus yet again. 

Chinese ambitions and retaliation by Philippines

South China Sea is the region of interest due to its strategic relevance for a power tussle in future. Historically, China claims to inherit claim on the entire area. In 2016, the United Nations dismissed that and introduced the Arbitral Award that denied China of any legal rights to all the resources that fell within the “nine-dash line”. Despite this, China continues to develop artificial islands in the waters and has invested heavily in the infrastructure and military in the South China Sea. The dispute over definition of maritime boundaries too has been the source of tension for both the parties. Whitsun Reef lies in the region and Philippines claims that China has violated the maritime law and has accused the latter of “militarising the area”. China however denied having any military equipments on the ships and claims that they are just a fishing fleet to define the boundaries.

The Defense Secretary of Philippines Delfin Lorenzana urged the Chinese ships to head back and stop the process of “encroaching a sovereign territory”.

This development is a source of concern for many actors in the world. A militarised South China Sea is not good news for the United States (US). The sour relations between US and China add to the intensity of the situation. US has often called out the Chinese intentions of expansionism in the South China Sea. In fact US supports Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam in their struggles against China. US also condemned the artificial islands that China has established inferring the negative reasons behind the same.

China has responded with a cold shoulder to the alarms raised by Philippines and demanded rationality on behalf of all the concerned parties. This leads to a set of challenges. One it is another evidence of the Chinese negligence of International law. Second, the US will have to come forward to discourage the Chinese intentions of showcasing its might. Third, in the already complex scenario, this incident can lead to heated exchanges between the stake holders.

The hope is that China will back off and let peace prevail and respond in the rational manner it has spoken of.