The Philippines accuses China of crowding coral reefs in the South China Sea

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A photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard shows Chinese militia boats operating at Whitsun Reef

The Philippines has accused China of “swarming” coral reefs off its coast after more than 135 military boats were spotted in the South China Sea.

The Coast Guard said the boats were “scattered and scattered” around Whitsun Reef, which it says falls within its exclusive economic zone.

They said that the increasing presence of these military boats is “worrying.”

The South China Sea is at the heart of the territorial dispute between China, the Philippines and other countries.

Whitsun Reef – which the Philippines calls Julian Felipe Reef – is located about 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Palawan Island, more than 1,000 kilometers from the nearest major Chinese landmass, Hainan Island.

The Philippine Coast Guard said the number of Chinese maritime militia ships in the area rose from the 111 it recorded in November. There was no response from China.

The two countries have been increasingly at odds over competing claims to sovereignty since Ferdinand Marcos Jr. became president last year.

Last week, the Philippines carried out two separate joint air and sea patrols with the United States, and with Australia a few days ago.

An international court invalidated China’s claim to 90% of the South China Sea in 2016, but Beijing does not recognize the ruling and has been building islands in the disputed waters in recent years.

The disputed waters have also become a maritime flashpoint in Sino-US relations, and in October, US President Joe Biden warned that the US would defend the Philippines in the event of an attack.

President Biden’s statements came days after a collision between two Filipino and Chinese ships in the waters.

Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei also claim parts of the sea.

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