China warns PH planes ‘every time’ they fly over West Philippine Sea
Published: 7:41 p.m., March 20, 2018 | Updated: 9;18 p.m., March 21, 2018
The Philippines continues to get warnings from China whenever it conducts aerial patrols over the features of China in the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday.
“These [Philippine patrol] planes, every time that they fly over these features of Chinese, they will challenge,” Lorenzana told “The Source,” a CNN Philippines program.
“They will say that you are entering Chinese airspace. Just exchange of words. Then we will say: ‘No, we are passing over Philippine airspace.’ It’s just a play of words every time we have patrols,” he said.
In April 2017, China challenged a Philippine C-130 cargo plane carrying Lorenzana on his way to visit Pagasa Island (Thitu Island) in the West Philippine Sea.
The plane, together with a C-295 transport plane, were told to stay away by the Chinese to avoid miscalculation as it about to land over the Philippine-claimed island.
Lorenzana said at that time that it was part of a “protocol.”
“We also replied that we are flying over Philippine territory,” he said.
China has transformed some of the reefs claimed by the Philippines in the Spratlys into artificial islands capable of supporting military facilities, which has become a concern for several nations.
Three of these seven artificial islands have 3-kilometer airstrips that may be used by China to land military planes in the future.
For its part, the Philippines conducts regular patrols in its maritime domains in the West Philippine Sea and Philippine (formerly Benham) Rise as part of its mandate, Lorenzana said.
Aside from the aerial patrols, the Philippines holds naval patrols and sends vessels from the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
The Philippines recently acquired six drones worth $13.76 million from the United States through a grant. These drones could also be used to patrol those waters.
“Now that we have the drones and we have what you call the marine patrols, we send our naval patrols every now and then towards the areas,” Lorenzana said, referring to the West Philippine Sea and Philippine Rise.
But he said the drones would also be used in the southern part of the Philippines to patrol the sea lanes of Sulu.
“They can be transported easily because they will be put in a container. These are very powerful, very silent and can stay aloft for 24 hours,” he said. /atm
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