AFP chief âalarmedâ at new China coast guard law
AFP chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the nation may rest assured the AFP would perform its mandate to protect the people by increasing patrols in the West Philippine Sea.

AFP chief ‘alarmed’ at new China coast guard law

Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - February 10, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Newly installed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said he finds “very alarming” the new Chinese law allowing its coast guard to fire at perceived intruders in what China considers its territorial waters in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

“I should say it’s a very irresponsible statement because we, our countrymen, don’t go there to wage war, but to make a living,” Sobejana said at a briefing yesterday.

He said the nation may rest assured the AFP would perform its mandate to protect the people by increasing patrols in the West Philippine Sea.

He said that while more naval assets would be deployed in the West Philippine Sea, “our Navy’s presence there is not to wage war against China but to secure our own people.”

Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he was “very concerned” about the China coast guard law, citing its potential to trigger armed conflict.

“I’m very concerned, I’m very concerned about this law because it might cause some miscalculations and accidents there, especially that they are now allowed to fire at foreign vessels,” he said in an interview over CNN Philippines.

Lorenzana, stressing that the West Philippine Sea is within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, has called on countries with claims in the South China Sea to exercise caution in implementing their laws because the chances of accidents and miscalculations is great.

“We are going to continue dialoguing with these countries and to find ways on how to move forward and as I said, it’s dangerous if there’s an accident, it might cause open conflict,” he added.

He also said the Chinese Coast Guard Law does not concern unarmed fishing vessels. “I advise them to continue fishing in their traditional fishing grounds like Scarborough Shoal, Reed Bank and even Mischief Reef because those are the traditional fishing ground of Filipinos,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. belittled China’s coast guard law. “And we are not gonna study that law to find a way around it like mice – or collaborators. I forbid Filipino officials to read that law; we will go on doing as we please in our territory & within our sovereign rights under UNCLOS and Arbitral Award regardless of any foreign law,” Locsin said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Navy’s second missile-capable frigate, the future BRP Antonio Luna, has arrived in Philippine waters and is scheduled to dock in Subic, Zambales today.

Its sister ship, the BRP Jose Rizal, welcomed the warship in the vicinity of Capones Island.

The BRP Antonio Luna will sail in formation with the BRP Jose Rizal through Manila Bay before proceeding to its anchorage area in Subic, Zambales where the crew and Hyundai Heavy Industries personnel will observe mandatory quarantine.

Naval Public Affairs Office chief Commander Benjo Negranza said a formal arrival ceremony will be conducted later this month after the quarantine period.

Negranza said the acquisition of BRP Antonio Luna under the Frigate Acquisition Project was a fulfillment of the Navy’s “thrust of having modern platforms and systems that provide opportunities for its personnel to develop modern mindsets and propel the whole organization into becoming a multi-capable naval force responsive to our maritime nation’s defense and development.” – Pia Lee-Brago

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