China fires flares at PH military planes patrolling West PH Sea
MANILA, Philippines—China recently fired flares at Philippine military planes conducting security patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
These were recorded at least five times near Chinese outposts in the West Philippine Sea, according to Lt. Col. Bill Pasia, of the Palawan-based Western Command, at an online forum on Friday (Aug. 20).
“China uses pyrotechnic signals or flare warnings to ward off our ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) team,” he said.
The flares were fired from buildings on these Chinese outposts last June:
Chigua (McKennan) – 1
Calderon (Cuarteron)- 2
Burgos (Gaven) – 1
Mabini (Johnson)- 1
Pasia also said that Philippine aircraft received Chinese radio warnings at least 218 times while patrolling the West Philippine Sea.
“As part of China’s assertiveness, while we are patrolling the West Philippine Sea, our ISR team are consistently receiving radio challenges from Chinese navy or reefs during routine flight patrols,” he said.
China, using its fictitious nine-dash line, had laid claim to nearly the entire South China Sea but this had already been rejected by an international court in 2016. Some Southeast Asian countries have overlapping claims in the South China Sea but none as brazenly fraudulent as China’s.
Beijing turned reefs and islands into military outposts, deployed warships and maritime militia to reinforce its territorial claims in the resource-rich waterway to declare ownership.
Pasia described three of the seven biggest Chinese outposts in the Spratlys as “most strategic” because these “can create strategic dominating triangle independent of each other in terms of future military activities.” These are Panganiban (Mischief), Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) and Zamora (Subi) which are all inside Philippine waters.
The Chinese base on Zamora Reef, which is only 14 nautical miles from Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, the biggest Philippine-occupied outpost with civilian inhabitants, poses a significant challenge as large fleets of Chinese militia “disguised as fishing vessels” can deploy from it to sandbars near Pag-asa (Thitu), now hosting a Philippine municipality, according to Pasia.
“The overarching challenge in the West Philippine Sea is China’s increasing assertiveness,” Pasia said.
The Area Task Force West hosted the first installment of the West Philippine Sea 101 online seminar series on Friday to raise public awareness on the sea dispute. The West Philippine Sea refers to the part of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ EEZ.
“Everything that is happening in our territory, especially in the West Philippine Sea, has an impact on our nationhood from the present and beyond,” said Pasia. “The situation has implications as it affects our national security and our dignity as a nation,” he said.
He said all concerned agencies, including the military, are working for a solution to the sea dispute.
“The AFP, through the Western Command, is in a tough, challenging and complicated balancing act of protecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, and the management and prevention of the escalation of tension at the West Philippine Sea,” Pasia said.
“There is a need to address the matter, not through military means alone, but rather, through a holistic and asymmetric West Philippine Sea maritime security strategy,” he said.
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