FILE - In this undated file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Chinese have been challenging Philippine airplanes flying over its outposts in the Spratly Islands. Xinhua via AP/Liu Rui, File

China challenges Philippine planes over West Philippine Sea — Lorenzana
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - March 21, 2018 - 5:31pm
MANILA, Philippines –  China has been warning off Philippine planes doing patrols in the country's airspace, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday.
Lorenzana, in a television interview, said that the military has been sending naval patrols of the country's territory from time to time.
"These planes, every time they fly over the features occupied by the Chinese, they challenge… Well, they will say 'You are entering Chinese airspace,'" the Defense chief said, referring to Beijing's artificial islands in the Spratlys.
The Defense chief clarified that the Chinese and the Filipinos only exchange words when the latter conducts patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
"They just exchange words, 'No, we are passing by Philippine airspace.' This is just a play of words but it happens every time our patrols go around," Lorenzana said.
Aside from the Air Force, the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources also conduct patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines is now using the Cessna aircraft that the US donated last year to conduct patrols over the waters surrounding the country.
Lorenzana said that the Philippines did not have equipment for the aircraft upon receiving them last year. The aircraft from the US have been installed with equipment and are now capable of patrolling the country's domains.

ScanEagle can be used for patrols

The ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle system that the US recently donated to the Philippines may also be used for patrolling the West Philippine Sea and Philippine Rise.
"They will be used in the south and also anywhere because they are very mobile. They can be transported easily because they are just put in a container," Lorenzana said.
Beijing has installed military capabilities in its "Big Three" islands in the Spratly Islands — Subi (Zamora), Mischief (Panganiban) and Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reefs.
A March 2017 report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative showed that China's naval, air, radar and defensive facilities in the artificial islands would allow them to deploy aircraft and mobile missile launchers to the Spratly Islands at any time.
Kagitingan or Fiery Cross Reef contains communication facilities and is likely being used by China as its intelligence hub in the region, AMTI reported in February.
Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte downplayed China's militarization of the South China Sea and said that it is not intended for the Philippines.
"It’s not intended for us. The contending ideological powers of the world or the geopolitics has greatly changed. It’s really intended against those who the Chinese think would destroy them and that is America," Duterte said.

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