Military to deploy more ships to West Philippine Sea
MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines will deploy more ships to the West Philippine Sea, not to wage war on China but to ensure the safety of Filipino fishermen.
A new law recently passed by China authorizes its coast guard to use any means necessary, including firing weapons, against foreign vessels it sees as intruding on its territory.
“As part of our mandate to secure the people, we will increase our visibility through the deployment of more assets,” Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the AFP chief of staff, said at a press briefing.
“I just want to make clear that our Navy presence there (West Philippine Sea) is not [aimed at waging] war against China but to secure our own people,” Sobejana added.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed concern that because of China’s new law, “accidents” might happen between patrolling ships of countries laying claim to parts of the South China Sea.
DND chief ‘very concerned’
Even then he assured Filipino fishermen that they would remain safe as he encouraged them to continue going to designated common fishing grounds in the area.
In a television interview, Lorenzana admitted that he was “very concerned” about China’s new law “because it might cause some miscalculations and accidents there, especially that they are now allowed to fire at foreign vessels.”
“So I call upon all claimants there: the Chinese, Vietnamese to exercise caution and carefulness in implementing their laws because the areas that they are operating … is the West Philippine Sea and it is within our exclusive economic zone that was given to us by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and ratified by the Chinese. So we are very concerned,” he said.
He added that other allied countries like the United States, United Kingdom, India, New Zealand and Australia had expressed concern over China’s expansionist behavior and even offered to conduct patrols in the area.
According to Lorenzana, China must also be feeling apprehensive about the continuing US freedom of navigation and overflight operations in the South China Sea.
“We are going to continue dialoguing with these countries and to find ways on how to move forward because it would be tough if an accident happens. It might cause open conflict,” he said.
Fishermen not armed
Lorenzana tried to assure Filipino fishermen that the “[Chinese] law does not concern them because foreign vessels, I understand, will be armed vessels from other countries.”
“Fishermen are not armed and I advise them to continue fishing in their traditional fishing grounds like Scarborough Shoal, Reed Bank and even Mischief Reef because those are traditional fishing grounds of Filipinos,” he said.
“So they should just continue and we will ensure that we have sufficient patrols of our Coast Guard and our Navy ships to protect them,” he added.
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