AFP spots over 50 Chinese vessels near Sabina Shoal, Iroquois Reef

During a recent air patrol, the Philippine military reported seeing around 50 Chinese warships near Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The Western Command (Wescom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported 48 Chinese fishing vessels near Iroquois Reef, located south of Recto Bank in WPS, during an aviation patrol on June 30.


According to Lieutenant Karla Andres, co-pilot of the Philippine Navy’s light patrol aircraft, the fishing vessels were “anchored in groups of five to seven and no fishing activities were noticed.”

Wescom reported that the number of Chinese fishing vessels in the vicinity rose from 12 in February to 47 on June 12 based on previous Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) flights.

Wescom said that, in addition to the Chinese fishing vessels, three China coast guard (CCG) ships and two People’s Liberation Army Navy vessels were seen “regularly loitering” near Sabina Shoal.


Two wooden resupply boats from the Philippines, as well as two Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels, were also spotted in the same location, according to the report.

“These developments raise an alarming concern about China’s intentions and actions within these disputed waters,” Wescom said.

AFP spots over 50 Chinese vessels near Sabina Shoal, Iroquois Reef

Recto Bank, according to Wescom, is “a focal point in this rising concern over China’s recent behavior” and “a significant feature for the Philippines, holding immense potential for the country’s energy security and economic growth.”


“Recto Bank is a vital feature within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and China must cease its swarming of vessels to respect our sovereign rights,” said Wescom spokesperson Commander Ariel Coloma.

The PCG claimed on Wednesday that two CCG vessels, numbered 5201 and 4203, engaged in “dangerous maneuvers” that could have resulted in a collision with two PCG ships near Ayungin Shoal on June 30.

According to PCG spokesperson for the WPS Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG deployed its warships BRP Malabrigo and BRP Malapascua, to help the AFP’s resupply mission in the area.

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