By Brad Lendon, CNN
Hong Kong (CNN)The Philippines said Thursday it has discovered illegally built structures on features in the Union Banks, a series of reefs in the South China Sea near where Manila says a flotilla of Chinese fishing vessels, allegedly manned by militias, had gathered in recent weeks.
The country’s military said the structures were spotted during maritime patrols conducted on Tuesday, but it did not give the precise location of the structures or more details as to who erected them or as to their construction, saying only their presence violated international law.
China has been accused of using its vast fishing fleet to help assert Beijing’s territorial claims throughout the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea, though China has dismissed accusations it operates an irregular naval force, or maritime militia, as groundless.
“The Laws of the Sea gives the Philippines indisputable and exclusive rights over the area. These constructions and other activities, economic or otherwise, are prejudicial to peace, good order, and security of our territorial waters,” Philippines Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said in a statement. “These structures are illegal,” Sobejana added.
Among the features in the Union Banks, which the Philippines calls the Pagkakaisa Banks is Whitsun Reef, called Julian Felipe Reef by Manila.