In response to recent observations of Chinese military activity near Pag-asa Island, the Department of National Defense (DND) has given orders to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to increase their level of presence in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The DND issued a statement on Thursday stating that any encroachment or reclamation on the features in the WPS constitutes a threat to Pag-asa Island, which is included in the territory of the country.

It also asserted that such actions endanger the marine environment and undermine the stability of the region.

“Any encroachment in the WPS or reclamation on the features therein is a threat to the security of Pag-asa Island, which is part of Philippine sovereign territory,” it added.

“We strongly urge China to uphold the prevailing rules-based international order and refrain from acts that will exacerbate tensions in the WPS and the larger South China Sea,” the statement read.

Earlier, DND officer-in-charge Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. expressed alarm over the reported swarming of Chinese ships off Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal in the WPS but maintained that they will not give up any part of the country’s territory and will continue with its regular maritime and air patrols.

“The DND views with great concern the reported swarming of Chinese vessels in Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal in the WPS,” he said in a statement on Dec. 14.

Another incident which took place last Nov. 20 involved the China Coast Guard reportedly interfering with efforts of Western Command personnel to recover an unidentified floating object spotted near Pag-asa Island. (PNA)