Delfin Lorenzana, the Philippine Minister of Defence, announced the flyby operations on March 27, in a bid to regain control of the situation. The vessels which have been anchored in the region since at least March 7 and number well over 200, are suspected to belong to Chinese military forces, although China denies any military involvement.
“Our air and sea assets are ready to protect our sovereignty and sovereign rights,” said Mr Lorenzana.
“We are ready to defend our national sovereignty and protect the Philippine marine resources.
“There will be an increased presence of Navy and Coast Guard vessels to conduct sovereignty patrols and protect our fishermen in the western Philippine Sea.”
Mr Lorenzana also repeated his demand that the fleet of vessels be withdrawn immediately.
Previously, Manila had expressed concerns over the fleet, in what it described as a “swarming and threatening presence,” that were docked within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
According to reports, Philippine FA-50 fighter jets are being sent to conduct the operations over the fishing fleet.
Speaking on Sunday to a Chinese Government mouthpiece, Global Times, a Chinese military expert said that the fighter jets posed a “big threat” to unarmed fishing vessels and could intimidate boat crews.
Global Times also claimed that sending fighter jets to monitor the vessels was inappropriate and warned that the fighter jets could cause an accident in the ultra-low-level manoeuvres.
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China has claimed over 90 percent of the resource-rich South China Sea as its own as part of its nine-dash line policy and has already begun construction on several artificial islands in order to bolster its military presence strategically in the region.