China Adds Ships in Disputed Sea, Philippine Top Diplomat Says

Chinese vessels in the Whitsun Reef in the disputed South China Sea, on March 23. Photographer: Gallo Images/Getty Images

MANILA, Philippines — China has added more ships in a disputed area of the South China Sea even after the Philippines’ repeated protests, according to President Rodrigo Duterte’s top diplomat, who’s pledged to take up the issue with his Chinese counterpart.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is considering another protest after Chinese vessels in the contested waters increased to almost 300 from just over 200 in March, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said. “This is essential because you never let any incident pass,” he added.

Tensions between the two nations have been escalating over the past months, with the Philippines, backed by the U.S., repeatedly protesting and seeking to have Chinese vessels in the South China Sea leave. Duterte has however maintained his friendly stance toward Beijing, recently calling it a “benefactor.”

The vessels were simply “taking shelter from the wind,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on March 22 when the news first broke.

The Philippines will not give up its sea claims, Locsin said, even as it seeks to cooperate with China on oil exploration and vaccines. “China’s enormous economy is essential for post-pandemic recovery for entire globe, let’s face it,” Locsin said.

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