The online news portal of TV5
MANILA - The Philippines on Monday warned a large Chinese fishing fleet in the Spratlys to stay clear of its waters amid a continuing face-off between the two countries over disputed territory.
Foreign Department spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Philippine coastguard would check on the location of the Chinese vessels in the South China Sea, to ensure they do not enter the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
"If these (ships) are going to our EEZ, we will file a protest because this is our EEZ and it is only the Philippines (that has) the sovereign right to explore, exploit and manage the resources in that area," he told reporters.
"We require China to respect the sovereign rights of the Philippines," he stressed.
He cited reports that the fleet of 30 fishing vessels from Hainan had arrived at a point near the Yongshu Reef in the Spratlys, parts of which are claimed by the Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China and the Philippines have been in a stand-off over disputed territory within the sea since April, when Chinese government ships prevented the Filipino navy from arresting Chinese fishermen at the Scarborough Shoal.
The Philippines withdrew its ships from the shoal in June in an effort to reduce tensions.
However China had not followed suit, said Hernandez. He said that on Friday a coastguard plane sighted three Chinese government vessels, six fishing boats, two speedboats and several small dinghies still around the Scarborough Shoal.
Chinese-Philippine tensions have increased due to the standoff, with the Philippines accusing China of "duplicity" and "intimidation" at a recent regional forum in Cambodia.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighbouring countries. The Philippines says the Scarborough Shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
A big fleet of Chinese fishing vessels arrived at the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on Sunday, state media said, amid tensions with its neighbours over rival claims to the area.
The fleet of 30 fishing vessels arrived near the Yongshu Reef in the afternoon after setting off on Thursday from the Chinese province of Hainan, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Chinese fishing boats regularly travel to the Spratlys, a potentially oil-rich archipelago which China claims as part of its territory on historical grounds.
But the fleet is the largest ever launched from the province, according to the report.
It includes a 3,000-tonne supply ship, and a patrol vessel has also travelled to the area to provide protection, the report said. The vessels will spend the next five to 10 days fishing in the area, it added.
The fleet's arrival came after China earlier Sunday extricated a naval frigate that got stranded four days earlier on a shoal in the Spratlys, near the western Philippine island of Palawan.
However the Philippines did not lodge a diplomatic protest over the matter, saying the stranding of the vessel in its exclusive economic zone was likely an accident.
China says it has sovereign rights to all the South China Sea, believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits, including areas close to the coastlines of other countries and hundreds of kilometres (miles) from its own landmass.
But Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines also claim parts of the South China Sea.
The Spratlys are one of the biggest island chains in the area.
The rival claims have long made the South China Sea one of Asia's potential military flashpoints, and tensions have escalated over the past year.
The Philippines and Vietnam have complained that China is becoming increasingly aggressive in its actions in the area - such as harassing fishermen - and also through bullying diplomatic tactics.
The Philippines said the latest example of this was at annual Southeast Asian talks in Cambodia that ended on Friday in failure because of the South China Sea issue.
The Philippines had wanted its fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations to refer in a communique to a standoff last month with China over a rocky outcrop known as the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
But Cambodia, the summit's host and China's ally, blocked the move.