AFP chief says Chinese vessels still in West Philippine Sea 
FILE - This March 7, 2021 photo shows Chinese maritime militia ships moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
NTF-WPS via Philippine Coast Guard

AFP chief says Chinese vessels still in West Philippine Sea 

(Philstar.com) - May 10, 2021 - 5:51pm

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejano on Monday said Chinese ships continue to be seen in the West Philippine Sea based on their patrols.

Two months have passed since Chinese vessels were spotted in the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef which is part of the country's waters. Their prolonging stay in the area has led to Manila filing a series of diplomatic protests against Beijing.

Despite this and some strongly-worded statements from officials, the presence of maritime assets from the latter continue in Philippine waters.

"I should say there are still Chinese vessels from their coast guard [and] their navy," Sobejana told "The Source" on CNN Philippines. "Some are militias and some are fishermen."

The AFP chief refused to say how many vessels were seen, and instead deferred to the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea to disclose the information.

But, he said some 10 Philippine Navy ships take turns in patrolling the area, per orders of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Sobejana added that radio challenges from Chinese ships are becoming frequent in their surface patrols. 

"They now have a template, the Chinese Navy and Coast Guard saying 'this is our territory, get out from here,'" he said partly in Filipino. "But then, we are not intimidated by those challenges. We continue our route and ensure that our patrol plan is not disrupted."

'Turn Pag-asa Island into logistic hub'

The Philippines in recent years has sought to make repairs in the Pag-asa Island, which a US-based think tank last year reported having met delays.

As the country's ships patrol the waters, the AFP chief said they are proposing to convert in into a logistics hub. He said this as most of their supply and logistic operations continue to be held in Puerto Princesa.

"We are completing our plan," Sobejana said. "We want it to be very comprehensive. I am in talks with Governor Jose Alvarez of Palawan and he's very favorable to the idea."

He added that the military has no funding and other resources for this to date, but they will "make a strong representation" to the government to secure the budget.

The AFP, along with defense and foreign affairs officials, have actively opposed Chinese incursions in the country's waters.

But the tone is different in Malacañang, as President Rodrigo Duterte continues to equate asserting sovereignty to starting a war.

Last week, he likened the Philippines' arbitral win in 2016 to a piece of paper that he can just "throw away," visibly irked by the mounting criticism on his response to the issue. 

RELATED: How Philippines can assert rights in West Philippine Sea without triggering war with China

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 31, 2021 - 11:14am

The United States Navy's Nimitz-class nuclear powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis continues underway in the South China Sea.

The US Pacific Command just reported that it has received "cargo" from support ship USNS Rainier in the disputed waters.

May 31, 2021 - 11:14am

The government should name and identify rocks and features in the Kalayaan Island Group to assert Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, a senator says Monday.

"The features we occupy in the KIG remain unnamed. Mapapalakas ang paggiit natin ng ating karapatan sa WPS kung malinaw ang pangalan, katangian, at sakop ng mga inaangkin nating teritoryo. Udyukin na ng DENR ang National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) para simulan ang pag-papangalan ng mga ito," Sen. Risa Hontiveros says in a statement. 

May 18, 2021 - 10:04pm

The Philippines protests China’s unilateral fishing ban in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says the Philippines does not recognize China’s fishing moratorium as it covers areas over which the country exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.

"China’s annual fishing moratorium extends far beyond China’s legitimate maritime entitlements under UNCLOS and is without basis under international law," the DFA says in a statement.

May 3, 2021 - 8:58am

The DFA protests the illegal presence of Chinese Coast Guard vessels in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and their belligerent actions against the Philippine Coast Guard. 

DFA also rejects the statement of Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin that China enjoys sovereignty over Panatag Shoal/Bajo de Masinloc. 

"China has no enforcement rights in these areas... The unauthorized and lingering presence of these vessels is a blatant infringement of Philippine sovereignty," the DFA says in a statement.

April 28, 2021 - 12:24pm

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. orders the filing of another diplomatic protest against China following the statement of a Chinese official on the Philippine Coast Guard's exercises in the West Philippine Sea.

"They can say what they want from the Chinese mainland; we continue to assert from our waters by right of international law what we won in The Hague. But we must not fail to protest. @DFAPHL have we fired off a diplomatic protest? Do it now," says Locsin on Twitter.

April 25, 2021 - 1:08pm

The Philippine Coast Guard sends BRP Malapascua and BRP Francisco Dagohoy (MMOV 5002) — a fisheries bureau vessel manned by PCG personnel — to Pagasa Island in the West Philippine Sea for maritime exercises.

Pagasa Island is in the Kalayaan Island Group of Palawan province.

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