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PH Navy monitors over 200 Chinese vessels around Panganiban Reef

January 31 ------ More than 200 Chinese vessels were spotted around Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, a low-tide elevation in the Spratly Islands, the Philippine Navy (PN) said. The presence of Chinese vessels in Panganiban Reef, located 250 kilomteres from Palawan, poses a challenge for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as it is just 37 kilometers away from Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, a Philippine-occupied feature where resupply missions are being conducted regularly. 


Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, PN spokesperson for West Philippine Sea (WPS), said that around 200 Chinese maritime militia vessels, 15 to 25 Chinese warships, and 10 to 15 China Coast Guard (CCG) ships frequently swarm around Mischief Reef. Every now and then, the Chinese vessels would be dispersed in different parts of the West Philippine Sea. "The massing or the presence of the foreign warships, maritime militia or Chinese Coast Guard is a product of different factors that includes their operational tempo, that includes the weather in the area, that includes their projection in the West Philippine Sea," Trinidad shared. 


He said the escalation in the number of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea began when China started operationalizing their maritime militia. But for the warships and the coast guard vessels, Trinidad said the deployment "has been fairly constant" over the past eight to 10 years. AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said that the big volume of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea "is not really alarming" as it is considered a regular deployment of Beijing's South Sea Fleet. "What we are really concerned about is their actions towards our own troops," she said. 


Despite this, Trinidad said China's presence would not stop the AFP from supporting the troops in the nine Philippine-occupied features in the West Philippine Sea. These features are Ayungin Shoal, Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, Rizal (Commodore) Reef, Patag (Flat) Island, Panata (Loaita Cay) Island, Kota (Loaita) Island, Lawak (Nanshan) Island, Parola (Northeast Cay) Island, and Likas (West York) Island. "The Philippine Navy and the Armed Forces will continue what we have been doing, supported by our Constitutional mandate of ensuring our sovereignty is not violated, the territory is intact, and to look after the welfare of the Filipino people," Trinidad said. 




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