Philippines demands Chinese fishing flotilla leave disputed South China Sea reef

In this Sunday, March 7, 2021, photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard/National Task Force-West Philippine Sea, some of the 220 Chinese vessels are seen moored at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea.

Hong Kong (CNN)The Philippines has demanded that China recall more than 200 Chinese boats it said had been spotted at a disputed reef claimed by both Manila and Beijing, describing their presence as a "clear provocative action."

Philippine government officials on Saturday released pictures of what they said were 220 Chinese vessels moored at the boomerang-shaped Whitsun Reef, which Manila calls the Julian Felipe Reef, close to the western Philippine province of Palawan in the South China Sea on March 7.
"We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Sunday, according to state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA).
    The reef, which is part of the Spratly Islands archipelago, is claimed by both governments. The Philippines maintains that it falls inside the country's exclusive economic zone. A 2016 ruling by a United Nations tribunal dismissed China's claim to virtually all of the South China Sea, though Beijing has refused to recognize the decision.