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Wescom seeks more equipment to boost WPS patrols, surveillance

/ 05:50 PM April 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Command (Wescom) in Palawan is seeking more military assets to boost its maritime patrol and surveillance in the West Philippine Sea.

The West Philippine Sea, part of the disputed South China Sea, is so vast that it could not be monitored in one sweep by existing Philippine military assets.

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Wescom chief Vice Admiral Ramil Roberto Enriquez said he had asked the AFP General Headquarters to provide the command with the capability “to map out Kalayaan Island Group in one sweep.”

“We are looking forward to additional assets so we can go for a sweep of the area in a single time,” he said in an interview with One News on Tuesday (April 13) night.

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He did not elaborate on what kind of military equipment the command needed. The AFP, however, has been looking to acquire long range patrol aircraft to boost its maritime surveillance but previous efforts to do so failed.

During military reconnaissance flights in the West Philippine Sea, soldiers take photos from thousands of feet in the air with the aircraft door open and using telephoto lenses to keep track of activities, including areas occupied by other claimants.

The lingering presence of Chinese maritime militia vessels at Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, which is inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea, has recently pushed the Philippine government to file diplomatic protests and send more patrols to the area.

More than 200 vessels were spotted at the boomerang-shaped reef in early March, but as of Tuesday afternoon it was down to six, said Enriquez.

However, the Chinese ships did not really leave the Philippines’ EEZ. Over 200 Chinese vessels are currently loitering different parts of the West Philippine Sea.

“They basically just transferred from one feature to another. The problem is we don’t have particular equipment or assets to map them out in one snapshot,” Enriquez said.

“When we fly, we can only fly to several features so we report what we can,” he added.

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TAGS: Kalayaan, maritime domain awareness, reconnaissance, South China Sea, surveillance, West Philippine Sea, western command
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