Philippines to Continue Operations in the West Philippine Sea Despite Chinese Harassment

Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Westerm Command Chief, speaks during an interview with the media at a port in Palawan on March 6, 2024. The Philippines said on March 5 that China Coast Guard vessels caused two collisions with Philippine boats and water cannoned one of them, leaving four crew injured during a resupply mission in the South China Sea.
JAM STA ROSA / AFP
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Operations in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) will continue despite the escalating harassment from China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels and their maritime militia, according to Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command. In a recent statement, he emphasized that the troops are undeterred and will not yield in exercising their sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.

One significant outpost in the WPS is the BRP Sierra Madre, deliberately grounded in Ayungin Shoal to serve as a symbol of Philippine sovereignty. Admiral Carlos assured that the Sierra Madre will remain in place, and efforts will be made to ensure its continuous rotation and resupply, in compliance with the President’s orders.

The recent incident on March 5 near Ayungin Shoal involved dangerous maneuvers and the use of water cannon by the CCG, which resulted in a minor collision and injuries among the resupply team. Vice Admiral Carlos himself sustained cuts when the glass windows of the vessel he was in were shattered. Despite this, the Philippines remains resolute in not allowing China to remove its outpost in Ayungin Shoal.

In response to the confrontation, Philippine officials summoned a Chinese Embassy diplomat in Manila to convey a strong protest. The United States also issued a warning that it is obligated to defend the Philippines, its oldest treaty ally in Asia, if Filipino forces come under an armed attack in the South China Sea.

Commodore Roy Trinidad of the Philippine Navy emphasized that Filipino forces will not allow any structure to be erected in another contested area, Scarborough Shoal. China has surrounded the fishing atoll with coast guard and suspected militia ships since 2012. Trinidad stated that these are red lines for the Philippines, delineating actions by China or any other rival claimant state that would spark fierce resistance in the disputed waters.

The recent flare-up in the long-standing disputes began when CCG and suspected militia ships shadowed, surrounded, and blocked two Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ships escorting civilian motorboats manned by Filipino navy personnel. They were on their way to deliver supplies and replacement personnel to the BRP Sierra Madre. China’s aggressive actions aim to prevent the reinforcement of the Sierra Madre, which, despite its deteriorating condition, remains an actively commissioned navy ship.

The Philippines stands firm in its commitment to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the West Philippine Sea. The government has set clear red lines, indicating actions by China or any other claimant state that would trigger a strong response from the Philippines.

The situation in the West Philippine Sea remains tense, with ongoing disputes and increasing harassment from China. However, the Philippines remains resolute in asserting its rights and will continue its operations in the area. The international community, particularly the United States, continues to express support for the Philippines and emphasizes the importance of upholding international law in resolving the disputes.

It is crucial for all parties involved to engage in peaceful dialogue and find diplomatic solutions to the issues in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines remains committed to upholding its sovereignty and will work towards a peaceful and cooperative resolution to the ongoing tensions in the region.

In conclusion, despite the increasing harassment from China, the Philippines will continue its operations in the West Philippine Sea. The country remains steadfast in defending its sovereignty and will not allow any encroachment on its territorial integrity. The international community’s support, particularly that of the United States, reinforces the importance of upholding international law in resolving the disputes. Through peaceful dialogue and diplomatic efforts, the Philippines aims to find a cooperative resolution to the ongoing tensions in the region.

Source: The Manila Times

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