Philippines sends more ships to West Philippine Sea

Philippines sends more ships to West Philippine Sea
This undated photo shows a Philippine Coast Guard vessel patrolling in the West Philippine Sea
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — A government task force on Wednesday said more maritime assets were deployed to the West Philippine Sea amid reports of Chinese vessels in the area.

This move aims to "sustain our sovereignty patrols, increase safety of life at sea operations" and intensify crackdown against illegal and unregulated fishing, according to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea. 

It came more than a month since Chinese fishing vessels were spotted in the Julian Felipe Reef, which have remained there despite the Philippines filing diplomatic protests.

"The foregoing whole-of-nation approach to protect our national interest in the WPS manifests the firm rejection of the Philippine Government of any attempt to undermine the 2016 Arbitral Award," the statement read. "We are exhausting all means possible to protect our territory and EEZ."

Assets sent were four Philippine Coast Guard vessels and an aircraft, five Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels, as well as high-speed tactical watercraft and rubber boats of the Philippine National Police's Maritime Group.

Constructions in detachments are also underway to strengthen the country's position in its waters.

A  P1.1-billion sheltered port and beaching ramp were put up on Pag-asa Island and an airstrip there is being rehabilitated. The NTF said this will improve the delivery of goods, transport of people and services, and boost investments in fisheries and tourism.

Facilities for ceullar and data connection to the island's residents were also done by a telecommunications company, while the Department of Information and Communications Technology is constructing a facility for Wi-Fi coverage.

The task force said too that government is undertaking an P8.86 billion development program with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development "for the environmental protection, security, safety and sustainable development in Kalayaan."

"[We are] resolute in upholding Philippine sovereignty over our territory as mandated by the Constitution," it said, "and protecting our sovereign rights over our EEZ in accordance with international law."

The deploying of ships is not the first in recent weeks. By end of March, the Philippines began sending PCG and BFAR vessels with the Chinese ships yet to leave the Julian Felipe Reef.

Other countries including Asian neighbors have also denounced the presence of the vessels there.

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