Chinese troops occupying artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) have fired flares on Philippine military patrols in at least five instances.

The Western Command (WESCOM) also recorded a total of 218 instances of radio challenges by China in attempts to ward off Philippine patrols.

Lt. Col. Bill Pasia of the WESCOM said during a webinar on WPS the flare-firing incidents happened in China-occupied outposts, namely, the Chigua (McKennan), Calderon (Cuarterton), Burgos (Gaven), and Mabini reefs.

The incident occurred twice in the Calderon reef, he added.

“China uses pyrotechnic signals or flare warnings to ward off our ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) team,” said Pasia in a WPS 101 webinar held Friday, August 20, via Area Task Force-West page.

Pasia shared a transcription of one of the Chinese radio challenges, which stated: “Foreign military aircraft, this is Chinese navy. You are approaching our military alert zone. Leave immediately.”

“While patrolling the West Philippine Sea, our ISR team are consistently receiving radio challenges from Chinese navy or reefs during routine flight patrols,” Pasia said. 

The WPS 101 webinar was organized by WESCOM’s Area Task Force-West to raise awareness of the present situation in the disputed waters. 

During the webinar, Pasia presented photos of the state of various atolls and reefs already at the advanced stage of reclamation converted into artificial islands. Some examples included the Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Zamora (Subi), Panganiban (Mischief), McKennan (Chigua), and Calderon (Cuarterton) reefs. These artificial islands were already hosting runways and ports accommodating Chinese planes and ships.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.