Chinese vessels still in West Philippine Sea — AFP chief
MANILA, Philippines — Chinese vessels are still in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said on Monday.
Sobejano revealed that the vessels sighted consisted of Chinese militia, coast guards, navy, and fishermen.
The AFP, however, cannot release the exact number of the vessels, as per the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea’s (NTF-WPS) orders.
Sobejano said that Philippine Navy ships patrolling the country’s territory often encounter radio challenges from Chinese vessels, transmitting messages with the template like: “This is our territory, get out of here.”
“But then we are not intimidated by those challenges, we continue our route. And we ensure that our patrol plan won’t be disrupted,” said Sobejano, partly in Filipino, over an interview in CNN Philippines.
“We even challenge them also, invoking that the West Philippine Sea is within our exclusive economic zone. so it is our territory, sila dapat ang umalis dahil pumasok sila sa teritoryo natin (they’re the ones who should leave since they are inside our territory),” he added.
According to Sobejana, the NTF-WPS currently has 10 navy ships under its command, patrolling the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for the sake of sovereignty control.
He then reiterated that the AFP is clear in its commitment to defend the country’s territories and its people.
The Philippines and China are in the middle of a long-running maritime dispute after the latter claimed that it owns the entirety of the South China Sea which includes portions of the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines challenged its claim through the International Permanent Court of Arbitration (IPCA) in The Hague in 2013 and won in 2016.
China, however, has consistently refused to recognize the ruling.
Chinese officials continue to insist that their country owned the area, ignoring a series of protests and demands made by the Philippine government for Chinese vessels to leave the WPS.