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54 Chinese vessels spotted in WPS - AFP




March 13 ------ The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported the presence of over 50 Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea, a sharp drop from figures reported recently by the Philippine Navy. 

  

In a press briefing on Tuesday, the AFP said a total of 54 Chinese ships were monitored in four maritime features and islands within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. Of this figure, seven were from the China Coast Guard (CCG), 18 from China's maritime militia, and 29 were fishing vessels or small boats. "The following are the sightings of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea as of 4 p.m. of March 11, in Bajo de Masinloc, five China Coast Guard vessels, 18 China maritime militia vessels, and 10 China small boats," said AFP spokesperson Colonel Francel Margareth Padilla said. "In Ayungin Shoal, one CCG vessel, six China fishing vessels. In Pag-asa Island, one CCG vessel and six China fishing vessels. In Panata Island, seven China fishing vessels," she added. 

  

AFP said it did not note significant sightings of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea's other features. The numbers that the AFP announced Tuesday are significant declines from data reported by the Philippine Navy on Jan. 30, when as many as 240 Chinese vessels were observed near Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef) some 25 miles away from Ayungin Shoal. At the time, 15 to 25 Chinese warships were spotted, 200 militia vessels, and 10 to 15 CCG ships. 

  

The Philippine Navy earlier said that it was difficult to provide an exact number for the Chinese vessels as many may be anchored or deployed all over the South China Sea at any given time. Amid China's recent actions against Philippine vessels in the disputed waters, Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said that the situation today was still not the most intense that the Navy and AFP have faced. 

  

From 1993 to 1944, Trinidad recalled, China occupied Mischief Reef before putting up the fishermen's shelters and a reclamation project. "There were a couple of standoffs in 1993 to 1944 between navy ships and People's Liberation Army navy. That was intense. These are normal water cannon incidents; it happened three months, four months ago. What makes this special or different is the shattering of the glass, and four of our personnel were injured, so I don't want to say that this is the most intense," he said. "We have been saying at the onset that all the actions of the navy, Chinese Coast Guard, and the maritime militia should be professional. Their illegal actions, the uncalled-for, unprovoked actions, should stop. We are not saying that it's acceptable, we have been telling them (that) for a long time," he added. 

  

Still, he noted that the Philippine Navy and the AFP are constantly preparing for any eventuality across the "spectrum of conflict from peace to crisis to wartime." "What we are concerned about are the actions conducted against us; regardless of the numbers, the actions are more concerning to us," he said. 

  

Undeterred PH military 

Meanwhile, the military will continue its rotation and resupply mission (RORE) in Pag-asa Island, Kota Island, Panata Island, and Parola Island—all within the municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan—in the first week of April 2024. Trinidad said that the Philippines' damaged vessels, including all ships, are under regular maintenance and repair. "The Philippine Navy is doing all it can with all it can, with all that it has, based on the number of ships that we have, given more we could perform even better," he added. 

  

For his part, AFP Public Affairs Office (AFP PAO) chief Colonel Xerxes Trinidad said the military's primary focus was continuing to accomplish its missions and protecting territorial waters. "The AFP will always be focused and will not be deterred by this particular illegal and aggressive actions by the Chinese Coast Guard and the maritime militia. We will always be focused on our actions, bounded by the international law and following the international, rules-based international order. Regarding the particular actions, nasa kanila 'yun (it's on them), we have been communicating with them, we are not escalating any tensions as they claimed," he said. 

  

Source: msn.com 

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