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South China Sea: Philippines sends warship to assert sovereignty, counter alleged reclamation activities by Beijing

The Philippines has bolstered its presence in the South China Sea by deploying a navy warship to assert its sovereignty and counter alleged Chinese reclamation activities, while it shores up surveillance capabilities with a space technology partnership with the United States.

The efforts by Manila reflect a multipronged strategy to address escalating tensions in the disputed waters, analysts say.

Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, Philippine Navy spokesman for the West Philippine Sea, on Tuesday confirmed the deployment of a warship to the Sabina Shoal, a maritime feature in the West Philippine Sea located 75 nautical miles (120km) off the coast of the Philippine island of Palawan.

“The navy has increased its patrols in Sabina Shoal. For the past good number of days, we have had one warship stationed in the area. This is to ensure that whoever is doing that, whoever is piling up dead corals in Sabina Shoal, we will be able to expose their activities,” Trinidad told ABS-CBN News.

The West Philippine Sea is Manila’s term for the section of the South China Sea that defines its maritime territory and includes its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“We will do everything to ensure that Sabina and all other features within our EEZ will remain under Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights,” Trinidad said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin denied the accusations on Tuesday, saying claims of “China’s reclamation” were rumours spread by the Philippines designed to vilify China and mislead the international community.

In a separate interview on Tuesday with One News PH, Trinidad said China’s recent aggressive activities in the West Philippine Sea, including its vessels’ use of water cannons to disrupt the activities of the