China ships planting markers in Phl zone
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - August 20, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea are not only conducting an extended maritime patrol over Recto Bank but are also putting markers within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the oil-rich area, a senior security official bared yesterday.

“They’re not only patrolling in the area, they are also installing their own markers. While they’re continuously putting up their own maritime markers at Recto Bank, we are also continuously blasting them,” the security official told The STAR.

The latest maritime operation that resulted in the destruction of the markers put up by Chinese at Recto Bank was launched middle of July.

This operation was in line with the standing government directive issued in the 1990s to remove any structures put up by anybody in the area, the security official said.

A naval officer, who used to be assigned in the area, confirmed the government directive, adding that during his time there were several instances that elite naval teams had to be dispatched to remove the Chinese markers at Recto Bank.

Recto Bank is believed to contain huge mineral deposits. And maritime security experts, including former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez, believe that this is the main reason why the Chinese continue posturing at the West Philippine Sea, specifically in Ayungin Shoal.

Ayungin Shoal is strategically located between Panganiban Reef and Recto Bank where the government has ongoing oil exploration projects.

China started deploying regular maritime patrols in the disputed region and has blockaded the entrance of Ayungin Shoal in a bid to starve the Philippine Marines guarding the area and force them to abandon their post aboard a grounded Philippine Navy ship, BRP Sierra Madre.

On a regular basis, at least three Chinese coast guard missile-firing frigates are guarding Ayungin Shoal. They are coming from Mischief Reef.

Mischief Reef is now under Beijing’s de facto control after it grabbed the unoccupied area from the Philippines in 1994, purportedly as a fishermen’s shelter but later transformed into a highly fortified forward naval facility.

“It would be a different story if anybody or groups will force their way into Recto Bank. We will not allow it,” a naval officer said.

Last Aug. 1, a Chinese coast guard vessel harassed a small fishing boat carrying local officials and journalists on their way to Pag-Asa Island in Palawan. This will be included in the diplomatic protest that the Philippines will file this week, the Department of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the militaries of the Philippines and the United States are holding a five-day forum on biological, chemical and nuclear hazards to enable them to address risks posed by dangerous substances.

The expert exchange on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards started last Monday and will be held until Aug. 22 at the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato said the event would allow Filipino soldiers to learn from the experiences of their counterparts at the US Army Pacific Command.

“They (US troops) have the experience during World War II. We do not have such experience. They will share with us their experiences and organizational structure,” he said in a phone interview.

Detoyato said sufficient knowledge about hazardous substances would enable the troops to protect life, property and the environment.

“We can learn the best practices and hopefully, we can develop our own doctrine later on,” he added.

Detoyato clarified that the Philippines is not facing any biological, chemical, nuclear or radiological threat. The event just seeks to improve the capabilities of soldiers so they can respond to any emergency.

“We should always be ready. For example, it can happen, in factories. A chemical spill is possible,” he said. “It will also enable us to help our neighbors as a member of the family of nations.”

Detoyato said the Philippines has an advantage in terms of detecting threats posed by hazardous substances. “We are an island nation and such threats can be easily detected and controlled because of the point of entry is through airports and seaports.”

The Philippine Army’s Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear was activated on April 16, 2013 to detect, identify, decontaminate and dispose of biological agents to save lives and protect the environment. With Alexis Romero, Pia Lee-Brago

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