Amid China law allowing use of weapons vs foreign ships, AFP to have presence in WPS
MANILA, Philippines — A top-ranking official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the military will maintain a maritime presence in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) amid a reported law being drafted by China that will allow its coast guard to use weapons on foreign ships in Chinese-claimed reefs.
“Our duty is very clear: To protect the people and secure the sovereignty and integrity of our national territory. We will remain in the area for maritime domain awareness and maritime presence,” AFP deputy chief of staff Vice Admiral Erick Kagaoan told a panel of the Commission of Appointments on Thursday.
He and 59 other AFP senior officials are up for confirmation by the CA.
Kagaoan was asked how the reported coast guard law being drafted by China would impact the military’s position and operations in the West Philippine Sea.
It was Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. who raised the question to Kagaoan.
“We read a report saying China has drafted a coast guard law that authorizes its maritime law enforces to demolish foreign constructions on Chinese-claimed reefs and allows the use of weapons against foreign ships,” Revilla told the AFP official.
“What are your thoughts on this?” he asked.
According to Kagaoan, issues regarding the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea are being handled by the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea, which he was a previous member of.
“I’m sure those reports are being validated by the national task force and issues like these are usually being handled first diplomatically,” Kagaoan said.
Asked if the AFP is prepared should another incident of Chinese aggression against a Philippine ship take place in the area.
“There are rules of engagement in that area and the guidance at the National Task Force West Philippine Sea is not to heighten tension,” Kagaoan said.
“If matters like that happen, it will be addressed first through diplomatic means,” he added.
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