(Manila Bulletin file photo)

The Chinese Embassy in Manila on Monday confirmed the presence of its vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) or Niu’e Jiao (Chinese name) in the West Philippine Sea but insisted these are only fishing vessels taking shelter in the area due to “rough sea condition”.

“There is no Chinese Maritime Militia as alleged. Any speculation in such helps nothing but causes unnecessary irritation. It is hoped that the situation could be handled in an objective and rational manner,” the Chinese Embassy said in a statement.

In the statement, the Chinese Embassy maintained that the Julian Felipe Reef is part of China’s Nansha Qundao, saying that Chinese fishing vessels have been fishing in its adjacent waters for many years.

“Recently, some Chinese fishing vessels take shelter near Niu’e Jiao due to rough sea conditions. It has been a normal practice for Chinese fishing vessels to take shelter under such circumstances,” the Embassy added.

On Sunday, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) raised concern about the presence of about 220 Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef, an area located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). 

This development prompted the Department to file a diplomatic protest against China Sunday night.

Former DFA Secretary Albert Del Rosario has called on the government to summon the Chinese ambassador in Manila to explain the presence of the mammoth number of Chinese vessels in Philippine waters.