Protesters warn of Chinese 'invasion' of Philippines

Protesters in the Philippines demonstrated against China’s presence in the disputed South China Sea

Protesters in the Philippines demonstrated against China’s presence in the disputed South China Sea

The Philippine government protested the Chinese ship movements Thursday after its military monitored more than 200 Chinese vessels from January to March in a disputed area named Sandy Cay, which is near the Philippine-occupied island of Pag-asa.

Although the visit of Russian ships does not have the same scale, Moscow's growing ties with the Philippines and its presence in the region come at a time of greater tension in the South China Sea.

Anne Marie Corominas, a lawyer for the former Philippine officials, said that Duterte is not among the people they want prosecuted as he had no hand in China's alleged dredging and blocking of FIlipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea, a portion of the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines.

A security briefing of the Western Command in late March confirmed the presence of suspected Chinese maritime militia, not just near Pag-asa but also close to Kota and Panata islands.

The Philippines effectively controls Thitu Island, which is part of the Spratly Island chain.

In a statement Monday evening, Panelo said that Malacañang is hoping that those who remain undecided can still be swayed to favor China once the improved relationship with it start to bear fruit.

In a survey November a year ago, Panelo said that pollsters are being used for partisan purposes after the 2018 third quarter SWS survey showed that 84 percent of Filipinos oppose the government's supposed inaction on China's activities in the disputed waters.

"The Chinese vessels are deployed directly between Panata and Kota, probably guarding the activities between the two, and anyone going to/from the other would have to pass by the Chinese vessels".

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"Those fishing vessels are also directly along the flight path of any aircraft coming into/out of Pag-asa using the runway; anyone coming into/out of Pag-asa by air could be under threat from these fishing vessels considering today's portable weaponry", he noted.

The nature of these Chinese vessels is quite tricky.

This tactic is referred to by experts as "gray zone strategy", where the vessels are used to "to avoid direct responsibility by arguing that these are not government vessels". "This is not a warning, this is just a word of advice to my friends, because China is our friend".

However, the president has repeatedly said war with China would be futile and he has no intention of getting into a conflict with the rising power he has courted for trade and investment.

"Such actions are a clear violation of Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction", the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

A senior US official says the presence of large numbers of Chinese vessels near islands and islets occupied by the Philippines is "a concern".

"The government headed by President (Rodrigo) Duterte is not responding".

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