Philippines Sends Fighter Jets as China Masses Vessels in South China Sea

Even as a Chinese flotilla is making a show of strength in the South China Sea, the Philippine military said it has sent fighter aircraft to fly over the Chinese vessels in the disputed waters.

The Philippines defense ministry also demanded the Chinese to withdraw the flotilla from the disputed waters immediately.

More than 200 Chinese vessels have swarmed the water, posing a threat to its security, Manila has said, amid rising concerns in the international circles about regional stability. The Chinese vessels are moored at the Whitsun Reef, which is within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines

South China Sea
China has increased its military and surveillance presence in South China Sea Wikimedia Commons

The military aircraft were scrambled to monitor the situation in the disputed waters, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, according to Reuters. The military will also increase its naval presence and conduct "sovereignty patrols" in the South China Se. "Our air and sea assets are ready to protect our sovereignty and sovereign rights," Lorenzana said.

China-Philippines Dispute Over South China Sea Claims

In 2012, China and the Philippines faced off against each other in a tense maritime stand-off over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which lies 100 km from the cost of Philippines and 500 km away from the cost of China's southern Hainan.

The Chinese then took control of the Shoal and forced the Philippines to release Chinese poachers who had been arrested from the area. The Chinese never left the shoal since then.

Avoid fishing in disputed area, Philippines tells fishermen
A Philippine fishing boat used to fish in the disputed Scarborough Shoal, in South China Sea Reuters

China had angered Vietnam and the Philippines in 2012 when it created Sansha city, making it the administrative headquarters for the Paracels.

Again that year, Vietnam alleged China sabotaged its exploration operations, setting off massive anti-China protests in the country.

China lays claim to the whole of the South China Sea , saying the Paracel and Spratly island chains are integral part of the empire from ages.

China to hold military drills amid South China Sea tensions
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea Reuters

Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei also have claims to a clutch of islands, shoals, rocky outcrops, atolls and sandbanks in the sprawling south China sea, making it a theatre of tense maritime dispute.

The US, which has geopolitical interests in the region, has criticized the land reclamation, construction and militarization activities undertaken by China in these islands.