PH continues to monitor Chinese ships in Ayungin Shoal
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines continues to monitor the activities of Chinese naval and fishing vessels in the Ayungin Shoal in the Spratly Islands, the military said Wednesday.
“Our task at the moment is to support the peaceful resolution of our conflict in the Kalayaan Island Group…and the Armed Forces of the Philippines supports the diplomatic actions or the protest by our government as a peaceful means to resolve [the conflict] but in any case we continue to monitor [the Chinese ships]…,” Major Ramon Zagala, AFP Public Affairs Office chief, told reporters in a press briefing.
The Philippines has protested the presence of a Chinese warship, two surveillance vessels and fishing boats off a shoal occupied by its military in the disputed Spratly Islands, in the latest territorial squabble between the Asian countries.
Zagala declined to give the estimated number of Chinese ships and fishing vessels in the area in order to “de-escalate” further tensions and also in keeping with the government’s desire of a diplomatic solution.
“What is important is we monitor, we know what they are doing and we are able to transmit it to the right people who can use this information more wisely than us,” he added.
Zagala said the military has been monitoring the Chinese ships and fishing vessels by air.
“It’s more cost efficient to patrol by air… It’s faster, it’s more efficient. We can get data right away, rather than by boat,” he said.
The AFP Public Affairs Office chief also said that while the government is seeking a diplomatic solution, the military has prepared its “contingencies” but would not elaborate on these.
“We are armed forces, so we should be able to defend our national territory, so the contingencies that we have is military one. I cannot elaborate,” he said.
Department of Foreign Affairs denounced the “provocative and illegal presence” of Beijing’s ships off Ayungin Shoal, adding the area is “an integral part of our national territory.”
The DFA maintained that Ayungin shoal is located 105.77 nautical miles from Palawan and is well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“The Philippines calls on China to respect sovereign rights and jurisdiction,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said last Tuesday.
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