The multiple anti-ship ballistic missile tests performed by China over the weekend were not within the joint area of operation of the Western Command (WESCOM) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) but in the northeast of Paracel Islands.
Vice Admiral Rene Medina, commander of the WESCOM, told Palawan News on Thursday that the Pentagon-reported testing of missiles is outside their area of operation at the northeast of Woody Islands.
“The reported testing of missiles is outside our joint area of operation (JAO) and per verification from foreign counterparts by our GHQ, the impact area was northeast of Woody Island in the Paracels in the South China Sea,” Medina said.
Based on available information, it is also called Yongxing Island (or Eternal Prosperity Island), the largest land mass that can be found in the Paracels.
Medina pointed out that based on the report of the Joint Task Force West (JTFW) headed by Naval Forces West (NFW) commander Commo. Anthony Sean Villa, no multiple anti-ship ballistic missile tests happened in the WPS last weekend like what the Pentagon claimed on July 2.
“Based on the report of our operating units, particularly the JTFW, there were no monitored sightings of anti-ship ballistic missile tests conducted in our JAO,” he said.
He said WESCOM remains monitoring its area of responsibility (AOR), particularly in the WPS and conducts regular maritime and sovereignty patrol missions incessantly to sustain its presence in the nine Philippine-held island detachments.
Medina said the Maritime Situational Awareness Center-West (MSAC-West) has five littoral monitoring stations and seven detachments keep an eye over their JAO under the NFW.
“These are equipped with sensors and radars to conduct 24/7 monitoring and are interconnected with our HQS (WESCOM and NFW). On the info from the US on the missile testing, we appreciate their concern towards a safe and secure maritime environment in SCS and WPS,” he added.
Medina said further that “WESCOM is committed to discharging its duties in protecting and safeguarding our nation’s rightful interests as provided by law, in accordance with the direction and guidance set forth by our national government”.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon reported that China performed missile testing during the weekend in the WPS.
It described the act as “disturbing” and contrary to Beijing’s commitment that it will not “militarize” the maritime region.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn said sovereign nations staking claims to island territories in the WPS are aware of the missile tests and disagree with it, calling the move as coercive and intimidating.