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MANILA, Philippines – Philippine officials condemned the “harassment, dangerous maneuvers, and aggressive conduct” of Chinese vessels which again tried to block Filipino troops en route to a resupply mission near Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
“Again, we strongly deplore and condemn the continued illegal, aggressive, and destabilizing conduct of the CCG (China Coast Guard) and CMM (China maritime militia) within the nation’s exclusive economic zone,” said National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya, who is also part of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.
“China has no authority or power to conduct law enforcement operations in our exclusive economic zone,” he added.
Only the Philippine government has the sovereign right to run law enforcement operations in the area since Ayungin Shoal falls within the country’s exclusive economic zone, Malaya emphasized.
This was a response to the incorrect claims by the China Coast Guard that Philippine vessels were the ones entering waters “without the permission of the Chinese government” and conducting “illegal transportation of construction materials by the Philippines to the illegal grounded warship.”
On September 8, resupply ships escorted by the Philippine Coast Guard were on a routine mission to bring supplies for Filipino marines stationed aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded ship that serves as the country’s outpost near Ayungin Shoal.
On the way, however, four CCG vessels and four CMM vessels harassed the Philippine ships, cruising dangerously close and surrounding a Philippine Coast Guard vessel.
While the Filipino vessels completed their resupply mission, Malaya still condemned the actions of the CCG and CCM, given that the harassment incident happened within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
“Law enforcement operations in the exclusive economic zone are within the purview of elements of the Philippine government – and that is why mali po iyong sinabi ng China Coast Guard (what the China Coast Guard said was wrong),” Malaya stressed.
The actions by China came just a day after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. told world leaders at the East Asia Summit that they “must oppose the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea.”
‘We just want to protect what is ours’
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also emphasized the need to build up the country’s defensive capabilities amid tensions in the West Philippine Sea. First, the military is eyeing better radar systems for the Philippine Navy.
“We have to see what is happening in our environment, that is why we are coming up with the radar systems and other capabilities that will make sure that we have a 360-degree capability to know what is happening,” said AFP spokesman Colonel Medel Aguilar.
On top of this, the Philippines is also talking with Spain to purchase one or two submarines to boost its naval capability.
“I’m sure everyone will agree that having a submarine is advantageous to any country but huwag naman sana ninyong isipin na warmongering tayo (don’t think that we’re warmongering here),” Aguilar said. “We are just developing our capability because we just want to protect what is ours, what will benefit the Filipino people because that is our mandate.”
The government is pushing for the modernization of its military with the goal of attaining a “minimum credible defense posture”, or building up just enough defensive forces to dissuade aggressors from potential hostile actions. – Rappler.com