MANILA, Philippines — The growing presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea will not stop the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from sending patrols to the area – especially around the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) – for monitoring and law enforcement.
In at least two occasions this year, Chinese coast guard ships tried to block the AFP-Western Command (Wescom) resupply and troop rotation operations at its nine occupied outposts in KIG, particularly at Ayungin Shoal.
“Given the presence of scores of foreign (Chinese) vessels already out there in West Philippine Sea, chances are these unfriendly maritime maneuvers will continue to happen,” a senior security official said.
But the official, who declined to be named, said the military – particularly the Puerto Princesa City-based Wescom – is undeterred and will continue its regular territorial patrol operations.
“We have our people manning detachments out there. We provide them food, water and medicines via our resupply operations either through the sea or through air drop operations,” he said.
Defense spokesman Director Arsenio Andolong emphasized on Wednesday that the AFP would definitely maintain its presence at Ayungin Shoal as well as on eight other Philippine-occupied islets and features.
“The AFP constantly patrols and maintains a presence in Ayungin Shoal as well as other Philippine-occupied islets and features,” Andolong pointed out.
A grounded World War II era Philippine Navy landing ship BRP Sierra Madre serves as outpost for a handful of sailors and marines guarding Ayungin Shoal.
Latest maritime monitoring by Wescom showed a Chinese coast guard vessel around 10 nautical miles from Ayungin.
“We always have a keen interest in the movement of vessels in the area and we report all sightings of foreign vessels to the National Task Force West Philippine Sea and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for appropriate action,” Andolong said.
Earlier, AFP chief Lt. Gen. Noel Clement declared that the country’s maritime issue with China is best addressed by the DFA and not by the military.
As a matter of national policy, Clement said, he wants the maritime dispute addressed diplomatically rather than militarily.
China, through its nine-dash line, is claiming almost the entire South China Sea.
“We are not here to be confrontational. We are not going to engage any country in particular. As far as the violations, there are concerns but the important thing is we will be able to report and address these violations in a diplomatic manner,” Clement recently said.
3 new Army units
Meanwhile, the Philippine Army (PA) has activated three special units as part of the AFP’s overall upgrading of the country’s internal and territorial defense.
Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, Army chief, personally led the activation of its Aviation Provisional Regiment, the 2nd Multiple Launch Rocket System (2MLRS) and the 1st land-based Missile System Battery (1LBMS) at Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.
“The activation of these units aims to strengthen the Army defense against current, emerging and future threats,” Macairog said.
Currently, the Army’s Aviation Regiment is operating two Cessna 206 and four Cessna 172 fixed aircraft.
He added Army aviators are also undergoing training in operating light attack helicopters, armed reconnaissance helicopters and multi-purpose medium lift helicopters that the Army is in the process of procuring.
“Through the upgraded Army Aviation Regiment as an integral component of our combined arms operations, our Army will have the capability to conduct a better array of aviation operations to support ground forces and be more responsive in the archipelagic setting in the defense posture,” Alberto said.
“We put primacy on the activation of these units in order to continuously enhance our aviation and air defense capability as we operate with the intent to be a modern and well-equipped Army in order to address fast evolving threats and finish the insurgency at the soonest time possible,” Alberto said.
Alberto likewise announced the appointment of Col. Jesus Rico Atenio as commander of the Aviation Provisional Regiment; Maj. Junel Uden as commander of the 2MLRS Battery and Maj. Edgardo Ocampo as commander of the 1LBMS Battery. All three special Army units are based at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/10/04/1957303/chinese-presence-wps-wont-deter-philippines-maritime-patrol#0WUut215QbWAIGq8.99