PH steps up patrols in WPS as China thrashes protests vs incursions | Global News
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PH steps up patrols in WPS as China thrashes protests vs incursions

/ 06:37 PM April 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines has deployed navy and coast guard ships to the West Philippine Sea amid China’s refusal to respect the country’s exclusive economic zone  and keep Chinese militia vessels in the area to ignore diplomatic protests.

The BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36), which was on duty to secure the Philippines-Indonesia border, was pulled out from the Eastern Mindanao area and redeployed to Palawan, the province closest to Philippine claims in the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

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The ship arrived in Palawan on Monday to augment ongoing efforts by the military’s Western Command to protect Philippine sovereignty, the BRP Mabini said in a post on Facebook.

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“Sea assets are and shall be continuously deployed to different areas in the WPS to conduct maritime and sovereignty patrols, and other law enforcement activities,” said Maurice Philip Alexis Albayda, spokesperson of the Area Task Force West, which is in charge of sovereignty protection in the area.

Albayda said the areas covered by increased patrols included Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, Pag-asa (Thitu) Cay, Recto (Reed) Bank and other parts of the Kalayaan Island Group.

Other Navy ships now in Palawan were BRP Dagupan City (LS-551), BRP Magat Salamat (PS-20) and BRP Miguel Malvar (PS-19).

Open sources indicate that the Navy’s biggest and most modern ships, the two new Rizal-class warships and the three Del Pilar-class patrol ships, are currently elsewhere. They are either for maintenance or test-firing its main guns.

The Philippine Coast Guard has sent BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409) and two other ships from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

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The Philippines has protested the presence of more than 200 Chinese vessels in March at Julian Felipe Reef and demanded the complete withdrawal of the ships. China, however, continued to ignore the protest and went further by claiming ownership of the area inside the Philippines’ EEZ.

In a tweet on Tuesday (April 13), Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said there were nine ships left in the area, citing latest ground report.

China claims Julian Felipe Reef as part of its territory and that Chinese ships there were just sheltering from bad weather, which Philippine officials described as a brazen lie. Philippine authorities said the weather was good in the area and the reef did not belong to China.

Beijing continues to invoke its mythical nine-dash line to lay claim to the entire South China Sea, treating as garbage the 2016 international tribunal decision that declared its claims to be baseless and invalid.

Vice Admiral Ramil Roberto Enriquez, Western Command chief and task force chair, said interagency efforts to protect and defend Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea are “very essential in the way we address national concerns.”

“The ATF-West shall continue to do so to ensure that our government forces and agencies will be able to collaborate, complement and support each other in performing respective mandates in support to national policy and strategy,” he said.

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TAGS: Area Task Force West, BRP Apolinario Mabini, China claim, coast guard, EEZ, PH Navy, reef, Spratlys, West Philippine Sea
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