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South China Sea: Philippines vows to ‘SWARM’ with fishing vessels in jab at China

Teodoro Locsin, the country’s Foreign Affairs Secretary, said this week the country was planning to “swarm” parts of the disputed waters. It comes just days after the US blasted Beijing for what it called “illegal” fishing operations in the Pacific Ocean.

China is said to operate the largest fishing fleet in the world.

The country operates at least 2,900 boats which operate outside of China’s own waters, Eco-Business claims.

Mr Locsin said: “We are swarming the areas because that’s the Chinese strategy-- to swarm the areas also with the fishing boats.”

Meanwhile almost 30% of fish stocks commercially fished are over-fished, the World Wildlife Fund has said.

READ: South China Sea: Philippines prepares to build marine fleet to counter Beijing threat

The diplomat also added that the Philippines’ decision to boost its number of fishing vessels in the waters would mean “the likelihood of an accident increases tremendously”.

However, he said the Philippines’ would fall back on US assistance if any of its navy boats are struck.

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China flag on a boat

China is thought to operate the world's largest fishing fleet (Image: Daniel Berehulak / Getty)

Responding to Mr Locsin’s comments, Wang Wenbin, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson for China, defended China’s “sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea,” which he claimed are “grounded in history and law”.

He added: “China stands ready to work together with ASEAN countries including the Philippines in the same direction to jointly uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

Last year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indeed appeared to confirm the US would protect the Philippines in the event of a South China Sea conflict.

Galápagos China fishing boat

The governor of Galápagos speaks as a Chinese vessel sits behind carrying 300 tons of fish - some endangered (Image: Juan Cevallos / AFP / Getty)

Mr Pompeo pointed to the Philippine-US Mutual Defence Treaty, which was signed in 1951, as the basis for his assurance.

He also pointed to China as one potential threat to the Philippines.

The US diplomat said: “Any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defence obligations.

Mike Pompeo and Teodoro Locsin

Mike Pompeo (R) has in the past said the US would help protect the Philippines in the South China Sea (Image: Ted Aljibe / AFP / Getty)

“China’s island-building and military activities in the South China Sea threaten your sovereignty, security and therefore economic livelihood as well as that of the United States.”

Earlier this year, Mr Pompeo issued a sharply-worded statement opposing China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

He said the US would be “strengthening” its policy regarding the region, adding: “Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.”

China protest Philippines

Philippine residents protest after a Chinese boat and a Philippine boat collided, sinking the latter. 22 fishermen were saved after a boat collision in June 2019 (Image: Ted Aljibe / AFP / Getty)

He also spoke specifically about the Philippines, claiming Beijing was carrying out “harassment” of Philippine fisheries as well as development of the nation’s offshore energy.

The Philippines is not the only nation to be alarmed by Chinese fishing vessels recently.

This year, Ecuador’s navy found 340 Chinese fishing boats operating around the ecologically sensitive Galápagos Islands.

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