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Filipino troops ready for ‘worst-case’ in dispute with China

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Filipino troops ready for ‘worst-case’ in dispute with China

South China Sea

This image with notations provided by ImageSat International N.V., Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, shows satellite images of Woody Island, the largest of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. A U.S. official confirmed that China has placed a surface-to-air missile system on Woody Island in the Paracel chain, but it is unclear whether this is a short-term deployment or something intended to be more long-lasting. ImageSat International N.V. via AP FILE PHOTO

FORT GREGORIO DEL PILAR, Philippines—The chief of the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said  Palawan-based Filipino troops had planned for “the worst-case scenario” and were monitoring China’s reported deployment of surface-to-air missiles in the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

READ: US hits China militarization

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday denounced China’s recent move, saying it would aggravate the already tense situation in the region.

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Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez said the troop alert level had not been raised but the military was “continuously monitoring developments.”

The military “plans for the worst-case scenario in specific situations and the troops under WesCom are conditioned for such instances,” he said on the sidelines of the Philippine Military Academy alumni homecoming here.

WesCom is based in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan and has the responsibility of keeping an eye on the Philippines’ territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea.

Lopez reiterated the government’s concern over China’s deployment of surface-to-air missile and radar systems on Woody Island in the Paracels, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

“This is a serious threat to regional security,” Lopez said, adding that China was “militarizing the region.”

“We get actual footage from the area, like video, camera shots… to establish what is actually there,” he said.

In a statement, the DFA said the Philippines was “gravely concerned over reports that China has deployed surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island. Such actions negate China’s earlier commitment not to militarize the South China Sea.”

It said the latest Chinese action was “a clear violation” of the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea and earlier declarations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

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Under the DOC, the parties had agreed to promote peace and harmony in the waters, had committed to freedom of navigation, and had agreed to exercise self-restraint and to veer away from the use of threat or force amid unresolved disputes in the waters.

Four Asean nations—the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei—are claimants in maritime disputes in the region. China claims almost the entire South China Sea.

“These developments further erode trust and confidence and aggravate the already tense situation in the region,” the DFA said.

The Philippines’ statement echoed the United States’ worries over the Chinese missile deployment, which came just as US President Barack Obama held a summit with the leaders of Asean.

In the US-Asean meeting, Obama reiterated his support for peaceful means to resolve the maritime disputes, including the Philippines’ pending legal action in a UN arbitral tribunal. TVJ

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TAGS: Paracel Islands, Philippine Military Academy, South China Sea, surface-to-air missiles, Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
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