civilian force that has become an integral instrument of China’s new maritime strategy. Many of these boats, while unarmed, are operated by reservists or others who carry out the orders of the Coast Guard and People’s Liberation Army.

“They may be doing illicit activities at night and their lingering (swarming) presence may cause irreparable damage to the marine environment,” the task force’s statement said.

The presence of so many Chinese ships is meant to intimidate. “By having them there, and spreading them out across these expanses of water around the reefs the others occupy, or around oil and gas fields or fishing grounds, you are steadily pushing the Filipinos and the Vietnamese out,” Mr. Poling said.

“If you’re a Filipino fisherman, you’re always getting harassed by these guys,” he said. “They’re always maneuvering a little too close, blowing horns at you. At some point you just give up and stop fishing there.”

Patrols and statements aside, Mr. Duterte’s government does not seem eager to confront China. His spokesman, Harry Roque, echoed the Chinese claims that the ships were merely sheltering temporarily.

“We hope the weather clears up,” he said, “and in the spirit of friendship we are hoping that their vessels will leave the area.”

The Philippines has become increasingly dependent on Chinese trade and, as it fights the pandemic, largess.

On Monday, the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Manila from China with great fanfare. As many as four million doses are scheduled to arrive by May, some of them donations. China’s ambassador, Huang Xilian, attended the vaccines’ arrival and later met with Mr. Duterte.

“China is encroaching on our maritime zone, but softening it by sending us vaccines,” said Antonio Carpio, an outspoken retired Supreme Court justice who is expert in the maritime dispute. “It’s part of their P.R. effort to soften the blow, but we should not fall for that.”

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Philippine Security Forces Are Accused of Killing 9 Activists

MANILA — A left-leaning human rights organization accused the Philippine security forces of killing nine activists on Sunday in coordinated raids in four provinces.

Cristina Palabay, the leader of the rights group, Karapatan, said the raids were carried out at the activists’ homes and offices. Two of the victims, a couple, were killed as their 10-year-old son hid under a bed, she said.

A government spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment, but a security official confirmed that nine people had been killed in raids carried out jointly by the military and the Philippine National Police. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

The Philippine outlet GMA News said a police spokesman, Lt. Col. Chitadel Gaoiran, had confirmed the deaths.

Mr. Duterte and other prominent Philippine officials, including military and police commanders, have accused Karapatan and other leftist groups of having ties to a long-running communist insurgency in the country. Karapatan and similar groups have denied being involved with violence.

Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said his organization was “seriously concerned” about the reports of the raids, which he said were “clearly” part of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign against the communist rebels.

“The fundamental problem is this campaign no longer makes any distinction between armed rebels and noncombatant activists, labor leaders and rights defenders,” Mr. Robertson said in a statement.

On Friday, two days before the raids, Mr. Duterte urged Philippine security forces to kill communists in battle. “I’ve told the military and the police that if they find themselves in an armed encounter with the communist rebels, kill them, make sure you really kill them, and finish them off if they are alive,” he said.

The Communist Party of the Philippines issued a statement urging its armed wing, the New People’s Army, which has been waging an insurgency since 1969, to “punish the perpetrators and masterminds” behind the reported raids.

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