5 to 6 Chinese ships patrolling West PH Sea – military

Carmela Fonbuena

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This has become the 'regular' situation in the West Philippine Sea, says Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr

DAVID VS GOLIATH. File photo of a much smaller Philippine ship arrives at the disputed Ayungin Shoal. Photo by AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Up to 6 Chinese coast guard ships are currently patrolling the West Philippine Sea, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr told reporters on Thursday, August 13. 

“There are about 5 to 6….It’s the usual. They’re in Ayungin Shoal. They’re also in Scarborough Shoal. The latest that we saw – we submitted this report to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) – is the ongoing reclamation,” Catapang said in an interview after the ceremonial turnover of the brand new M4 assault rifles of the Army and the Marines. 

This has become the “regular” situation in the West Philippine Sea, Catapang said. More ships were reported in the past.

Most of the Chinese ships were sighted in Scarborough Shoal located off the coast of Zambales in Luzon, and Mischief Reef off the coast of Palawan. 

The Chinese Coast Guard has been occupying Scarborough Shoal since a standoff with the Philippine Navy in 2012, where the Philippines withdrew its ship. This has affected the livelihood of Filipino fishermen who are being driven away from the shoal, a fertile fishing ground.

Mischief Reef is also a Philippine-claimed outcrop that China occupied in 1995. It has since served as China’s forward operating base. Mischief Reef is located near Ayungin Shoal, where the Philippines grounded a ship in response to the occupation of the reef. 

The BRP Sierra Madre now serves as a unconventional naval detachment, which China wants to be towed away.

The new Philippine military chief is not new to handling issues of territorial defense. A former chief of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), Catapang used to be responsible for Scarborough Shoal before the disputed maritime territory was transferred to Palawan’s Westcom. 

“When I was still with Nolcom and General Rustico Guerrero was with Westcom, he used to ask me: ‘Mistah, I’m looking for 5 or 6 ships that I always see in Mischief Reef. They’re missing. It might be in your area?'” 

He said he replied, “Mistah, the two are with me,” which showed that “the ships are just shuttling back and forth.”

The Philippines is seeking regional support for its Triple Action Plan proposal that includes a moratorium on provocative activities in the West Philippines Sea. China has rejected it, however. –

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