AFP chief says Chinese vessels still in West Philippine Sea 

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

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

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 28, 2023 - 12:01pm

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.

September 28, 2023 - 12:01pm

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources conducts an aerial maritime inspection over Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc on Thursday, according to a report of PTV.

PTV says BFAR is checking if the southeast portion of Bajo de Mansinloc remains free from illegal and hazardous floating barriers.

Earlier this week, the Philippine Coast removed the chains surrounding the entrance of Bajo de Masinloc installed by the China Coast Guard. — PTV

September 25, 2023 - 3:02pm

The National Security Council condemns the installation of the floating barriers of the China Coast Guard in Bajo de Masinloc, PTV reports on Monday.

“It ruled categorically that such action by the PRC violated the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen in the shoal who have been fishing there for centuries," NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya says.

"Any State that prevents them from doing artisanal fishing there violates UNCLOS and international law, in general,” he adds.

September 22, 2023 - 2:33pm

PTV reports that BRP Antonio Luna of the Philippine Navy and HMCS Ottawa of the Royal Canadian Navy conducted a joint sail in the West Philippine Sea on Sept. 21.

“The joint sail is part of the Philippine Navy's regular engagements with its partners in the Philippines' maritime zones. Bravo Zulu to all the personnel of both ships and those who planned this activity," Ltc Enrico Gil Ileto, Public Affairs AFP chief says.


July 21, 2023 - 3:49pm

Ahead of the second State of the Nation Address of President Ferdinand Marcis Jr, the descendants of the Bai sa Condor and  Anta sa Tebouk, on behalf of the Iranun in the Philippines composed of 16 sultans, formally declares ownership of the  Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoals as patrimony from their ancestors. 

The declaration of ownership is led by Sultan Tomas Reyes Cabili, Jr. as part of the advocacy of the Tomas Ll. Cabili  Foundation (TLC Foundation).

"TLC Foundation is doing this for our country’s sake as a whole on our claim for what is ours. Not just for our Muslim brothers and the Moro Origins of Mindanao (IRANUN), BUT for all the Filipinos - and the next generations to come. All the Philippines’ descendants of the Iranunis unfurling the historical dimension of the Spratlys and the ScarboroughShoals to strengthen the Philippines' claim on them and complement the theoretical frameworks already presented in the United Nations," Cabili says.

July 5, 2023 - 10:47am

Raymond Powell, project lead at the Gordion Knot Center for National Security Innovation, tweets that China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels "maneuvered dangerously close" to two Philippine Coast Guard ships on a resupply mission at Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea last week.

In a tweet, Powell identifies the ships as BRP Malabrigo and BRP Malapascua. He says these were escorting a small-boat resupply mission to the Philippines' outpost aboard BRP Sierra Madre and were met by an armada of CCG and militia ships, as well as a possible navy vessel.

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