The Philippines’ navy chief is urging the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to file a diplomatic protest against China over the presence of two Chinese survey ships at an oil-rich disputed area in the South China Sea.
The surveillance vessels were spotted in Reed Bank last week and have no clearance from the Philippine government, Vice Admiral Giovanni Bacordo said at a virtual forum Monday.
“We would like to conclude that they are conducting surveys,” Barcordo said. The Philippine Navy may send a ship to guard the area, which has been considered for joint oil exploration between the two nations, he added.
A spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs was not immediately available for comment.
The presence of survey ships adds to China’s growing presence in South China Sea areas claimed by both Manila and Beijing. It also comes after Duterte said he wants to pursue diplomacy with China, while the U.S. is challenging Beijing’s claims in the disputed sea.