MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine military has intensified its monitoring activities after China sent one of its largest fishing fleets to disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea.
“The Philippine Navy is closely monitoring the developments in reported setting of sails of said Chinese fishing boats,” said Navy spokesman Colonel Edgardo Arevalo in a statement Wednesday.
Arevalo said Philippine Navy ships were patrolling the area and they “shall serve as our eyes and ears.”
“But as of now, it’s too early to comment on what to do if they will enter Philippine territory as that remains to be a contingency as of the moment,” he said.
Arevalo acknowledged the Philippines’ “limitations” in naval capabilities, but assured that they will stay “steadfast in performing their mandate to secure our maritime and territorial domains.”
“The guidance from higher headquarters is clear: to continue to be vigilant; monitor and report any unusual incidents obtaining in the area. These include intrusions and other illegal activities like fishing in our maritime domain. The Philippine Navy, being a force provider, will act as directed by higher headquarters,” he also said.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan, said they will “enforce” sovereignty should the fishing fleets enter the Philippine territory or within exclusive economic zone.
“Of course we will have to exert [efforts to preserve the integrity and] the sovereignty of our territory but again we have to undertake it as a whole government decision or effort on this and [Department of Foreign Affairs] would be again on the lead as far as this is concerned, when if ever they are correct, but necessarily we are taking action on the report, or the issue so that we will be able advise other government agencies and the AFP itself to be able to undertake what should be undertaken as far as this is concerned,” he told reporters in a press briefing.
Tutaan said their action “will depend on what is verified,” but declined to discuss deployments of assets.
In a report by China Daily, it said that a flotilla, including 30 fishing vessels, set sail on Monday for the disputed Spratly Islands, claimed by Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei and China.
The fleet left Hainan in China for a 40-day trip to the region, the report said.