Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Jr., chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), has ordered the deployment of Navy ships in the West Philippine Sea as China continues to defy the Philippine government’s demand to leave the Julian Felipe Reef.
AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the move is to beef up the conduct of maritime sovereignty patrols in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) amid the continuous presence of scores of Chinese militia in the Julian Felipe Reef which the government declared to be well-within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
“By the increased naval presence in the area, we seek to reassure our people of the AFP’s strong and unwavering commitment to protect and defend them from harassment and ensure that they can enjoy their rights over the country’s rich fishing ground which is the source of their livelihood,” said Arevalo in a statement issued on Thursday.
The order for the deployment of more Navy warships appears to be the first time that the military took a strong action against China over the West Philippine Sea since the standoff between the Philippine Navy and Chinese Coast Guard at the Scarborough Shoal in 2012. The military order for additional Navy ships, however, is yet to be seen.
On March 7, the Philippine Coast Guard reported the swarming of more than 200 Chinese vessels believed to be manned by China’s militia forces in the disputed West Philippine Sea, specifically at the Julian Felipe Reef.
The military ordered the deployment of ships and aircrafts to confirm the report and as soon as it was confirmed, the Philippine government filed a diplomatic protest. (Aaron Recuenco)