«The continued presence of Chinese maritime militias in the area reveals their intent to further occupy the West Philippine Sea» Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement, using the local name for the South China Sea.
Lorenzana repeated calls for the Chinese boats to leave a reef, which the Philippines calls the Julian Felipe Reef, located within its exclusive economic zone.
Chinese diplomats have stated the boats anchored near the reef numbering more than 200 based on Philippine patrols were sheltering from rough seas and no militia was aboard those boats.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila responded to the Philippines Defence Secretary’s comments, saying it was «completely normal» for Chinese vessels to fish in the area and take shelter near the reef during rough sea conditions.
Lorenzana announced that there were still 44 Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef despite improved weather conditions.