Personnel of a Philippine Coast Guard ship prepare to conduct a survey in the waters of Second Thomas Shoal in the disputed South China Sea on April 23, 2023


  • The Philippines deployed five buoys carrying its national flag to the South China Sea last week
  • The Philippine Coast Guard aims to install more buoys in the disputed waters later this year
  • China protested Vietnam's plan to expand its oil drilling operations in Vanguard Bank

The Philippines is ramping up its maritime stakes in the highly-disputed South China Sea following China's intensified intimidation campaigns.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) placed five navigational buoys carrying the national flag within the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Philippine online news outlet Rappler reported, citing a coast guard spokesperson.

The Philippine authorities set up the buoys from Wednesday to Friday in five areas within the 200-mile zone, including the Whitsun Reef, locally known as Julian Felipe, where hundreds of Chinese maritime vessels were spotted in 2021.

"This move highlights the Philippines' unwavering resolve to protect its maritime borders and resources and contribute to the safety of maritime trade," Commodore Jay Tarriela, the PCG spokesperson and adviser for maritime security, said on Twitter.

In an interview with Philippine news outlet GMA News, PCG Vice Admiral Joseph Coyme said the Philippines will file a protest if foreign countries attempt to remove one of its buoys.

Coyme added they will install six more buoys this year to constantly assert the country's sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, a part of the South China Sea that it claims as its territory.

The Philippines previously installed navigational buoys in its four islands in the South China Sea last year: Lawak (Nanshan), Likas (West York), Parola (Northeast Cay), and Pag-asa (Thitu).

Meanwhile, China continues to harass other claimants in the heavily-contested waters.

Dozens of Chinese and Vietnamese vessels faced off in the South China Sea as Hanoi moved to expand its oil drilling operations, the South China Morning Post reported.

According to South China Sea Wave, a Chinese social media account specializing in military reports and research into the area, Beijing deployed the Xiang Yang Hong 10 research vessel, along with two Chinese coast guard ships and at least seven other fishing boats after Vietnam released an internal notice saying it would expand its oil drilling program at Block 05-1A near Vanguard Bank this month.

Hanoi responded to China's move by deploying five vessels to Vanguard Bank, known in China as the Nansha Islands, which is within Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

Duan Dang, a Vietnamese freelance journalist covering maritime issues, said on Twitter that the Chinese flotilla approached Vietnam's oil well Wednesday after a drilling rig had been towed there.

The journalist said China aims to pressure Vietnam "to halt its new drilling campaign in Block 05-1A."

According to South China Sea Wave, Vietnam's oil drilling expansion plans would violate the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which was signed by China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2002.

China and Vietnam previously had a standoff in the same area in July 2019, when a Chinese survey vessel entered Vanguard Bank and began a two-month-long confrontation involving four Chinese coast guard vessels and two Vietnamese ships.

south china sea
A Chinese Coast Guard vessel is pictured on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea, March 29, 2014. REUTERS/Erik De Castro