PH military chief: Patrols to continue at West Philippine Sea

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine military will continue with their patrols in the West Philippine Sea amid the presence of Chinese maritime militia near Pag-asa Island (Thitu) in the Spratly Islands.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. told reporters Monday that the presence of the vessels is a concern not just of the military but also of other government agencies.

Last week, the Western Command revealed the presence of sightings of over 600 vessels for the first quarter of 2019. The highest number recorded on a single day was at 87.

“This is a concern not only for the military, but for other agencies as well, including the Coast Guard. We are looking for ways to address this,” Madrigal said.

He also clarified that there were only over 200 vessels sighted, based on bow numbers.

“It’s basically the same vessels repeatedly spotted there,” he said.

The AFP chief said they are forwarding the military reports to concerned agencies to resolve the dispute.

Kalayaan Mayor Roberto del Mundo said last month that the Chinese fishing vessels had been blocking their path on their way to the sandbars, a traditional fishing ground. The military played down his statements.

The Western Command is aware of the situation at sea and has been continuously monitoring the waters of Pag-asa, the Department of National Defense (DND) said.

“Just as the Philippines honors our international obligations and protocols, we also expect other countries and their vessels to do the same especially when sailing and fishing in international waters,” it said in a statement.

DND then urged local fishermen “to continue their fishing activities in our waters and exclusive economic zone.”

China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have conflicting claims over the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest sea-lanes. /kga

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