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Philippines monitoring ‘illegal’ presence of more than 135 Chinese boats in South China Sea

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MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Sunday said it is monitoring the “illegal presence” of more than 135 Chinese maritime militia vessels at a reef in the South China Sea.

In response, it said its chief has ordered patrols in the vicinity of Whitsun Reef, which Manila calls the Julian Felipe Reef, and lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“The PCG maintains its unwavering commitment to safeguarding maritime security, safety and the marine environment in the course of protecting the territorial integrity, sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea,” it said in a statement.

The West Philippine Sea is Manila’s term for waters in the South China Sea that fall within its 200-nautical mile EEZ.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese Embassy in Manila.

An international tribunal invalidated China’s claim to 90% of the South China Sea in 2016, but Beijing does not recognise the ruling. China has built islands in the disputed waters in recent years, laying air strips on some of them.

Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei all claim parts of the sea.

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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