Amid radio challenges from Chinese coast guard vessels in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine Coast Guard already has a ready response asserting the country’s territorial sea and exclusive economic zone.
“Calling China Coast Guard. You are transiting inside PH Territorial Sea of Pag-asa Island. Identify yourself & state your intention to prevent misunderstanding. Over.”
This was the ready response that PCG personnel brought with them during a maritime domain awareness flight over the West Philippine Sea on Thursday.
The PCG aircraft received at least seven radio challenges from Chinese Coast Guard vessels at Pag-asa Island and Ayungin Shoal, telling them they have entered “China air space” and that they should “leave immediately… to avoid any misunderstanding.”
PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela earlier said exposing China’s “gray zone operations” will allow international bodies to criticize Beijing’s incursions in the Indo-Pacific.
Gray zone operations are intended to assert territorial claims through non-military means such as the deployment of Coast Guard vessels, maritime militias, and the fortification of islands and elevations.
For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Manila’s actions in the WPS should not be seen against the backdrop of a strategic competition between two major powers – China and the US – in the region.
“Our concerns are mainly from the national standpoint and should not be viewed through the prism of the US-China rivalry,” he said.
Still, Manalo said Manila is committed to the full implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US which he said would “make our alliance more resilient and will accelerate modernization of our joint military capabilities.”
The US embassy in Manila said a $24-million airstrip extension and rehabilitation project will break ground at the Cesar Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga on March 20.
The military base is one of the five previously identified sites where future facilities and structures would be built under the 2014 EDCA
US Ambassador MaryKay Loss Carlson said the rehabilitation is one of the many projects in the pipeline, which totals $80 million.
“It’s 365 days a year that our militaries are coordinating and they choose sites for any number of reasons and that’s to primarily just ensure the lives and the livelihoods of Filipinos are protected and that US security interests are all so enhanced,” she said.