The Philippine Navy deployed more ships to the West Philippine Sea after China passed a law that allowed its Coast Guard to fire at foreign vessels spotted in its expansionist claims in the region.
This was announced by new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana in a press briefing on Wednesday, February 10.
"It's quite alarming. As a reaction to that, since our fishermen are earning their living in that part of the West Philippine Sea and we protect them as part of our mandate, I directed immediately the Philippine Navy to provide more ships to the Western Command," Sobejana said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The West Philippine Sea is a part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines. A 2016 Hague ruling asserted the Philippines' sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea and struck down as illegal China's expansive 9-dash line claim it used to claim virtually the entire South China Sea.
Filipino fishermen are the most vulnerable population in the dispute as they travel days by boat to reach fishing sanctuaries and stay there for weeks at a time only to make a few thousands of pesos as income when they sail home.
In 2019, a Chinese trawler rammed a Filipino fishing boat and abandoned its 22-men crew in Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea, marking one of the biggest diplomatic crises in the Philippines amid President Rodrigo Duterte's pivot to China. – Rappler.com
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.