Given the recent bullying of Filipino fishermen and their countrymen in the West Philippine Sea by better-armed Chinese vessels, we are elated the Philippine Coast Guard has started monitoring PRC vessels in the area.
One good thing going is the PCG has allayed concerns regarding the situation in the West Philippine Sea, saying the tension there with Chinese vessels is not heightened.
In a radio interview, beamed nationwide on Sunday, PCG Vice Admiral Joseph Coyme said, in a mix of English and Filipino, they are currently monitoring several alleged Chinese militia vessels anchored in Philippine-claimed claimed maritime areas, but said these vessels do not affect their operations that much.
“The good thing now is we are not escalating the tension, through the presence of the Philippine Coast Guard and law enforcement agencies,” said Coyme, who led placing five navigational buoys or sovereign markers in “critical areas” of the West Philippine Sea.
The buoys, installed near Patag Island, Balagtas Reef, Kota Island, Panata Island and Juan Felipe Reef, carry the Philippine flag and signify the country’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the country’s exclusive economic zone, the PCG said.
The move also highlights the country’s unwavering resolve to protect its maritime borders and resources and contribute to the safety of maritime trade, the PCG added.
In April, more than 100 Chinese vessels were seen with their long-drawn-out presence near the WPS, and the PCG reported provocative tactics by the ships, including a Chinese coast guard ship that sailed into the path of a PCG vessel, almost causing a collision.
In July 2016, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the Netherlands invalidated China’s expansive and non-historic nine-dash line claims covering the entire South China Sea and recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the area within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
The nine-dash line has been used by China to show the maximum extent of its claim, without indicating how the dashes would be joined and in turn affect the area being claimed.
The PRC has not clarified the legal basis or nature of the nine-dash line on maps that stretches more than 1,500 km off its mainland and cuts into the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.
Beijing ignored the international ruling and deployed hundreds of militia vessels in the disputed areas, including those belonging to the Philippines.
Washington has expressed its support to Manila and reiterated its obligations to its ally under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.
Washington said: “The United States stands with the Philippines in the face of the People’s Republic of China Coast Guard’s continued infringement upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
“The United States stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order and reaffirms that an armed attack in the Pacific, which includes the South China Sea, on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft, including those of the Coast Guard, would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” it added.