The Philippine Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that China now has a total of 5 government ships, 16 fishing vessels and 76 small utility boats posted near Scarborough Shoal, claimed by both countries as their own territory.
The faceoff over the area in the northeastern South China Sea known as Huangyan Island in China and Panatag Shoal in the Philippines began when the Philippine navy intercepted what it called Chinese poachers illegally fishing in the vicinity on April 10. Chinese maritime surveillance ships (coast guard) later arrived to protect China's interests and prevent the arrest of the fishermen.
But if China now has nearly 100 vessels of all different sizes in the area, the Philippines claims it still only has 2 coast guard ships to confront them.
On Wednesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected the Filipino statement, saying it only had approximately 20 fishing vessels in the area, which it says is roughly equal to the number China sends to Huangyan yearly to conduct fishing.
China has already enforced a general fishing moratorium on the South China Sea, which it says will continue until September. The move was originally seen by experts as a means to alleviate tensions with neighbors, such as the Philippines, a U.S. ally. However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry added that the current fishing fleet at Scarborough was there legally. The vessels are operating in line with the current order for the fishing moratorium said ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
On Thursday, Beijing asked the Philippines to desist from all provocations and to instead enter further bilateral discussions.