(Photos by Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Space Agency)

The National Security Council has tasked the Philippine Coast Guard with patrolling the West Philippine Sea to “challenge” the intensifying presence of Chinese maritime militia vessels, which grew from 111 near Julian Felipe Reef in early November to 135.

Commodore Jay Tarriela, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea (WPS), said in a statement issued Monday that the directive from National Security Adviser and Chair of the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (NTF WPS), Eduardo Año, is in response to the “alarming development” in the area.

Tarriela stated that PCG Commandant Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan deployed BRP Sindangan and BRP Cabra to conduct patrols in the immediate vicinity of Julian Felipe Reef.

On November 13, the PCG spotted 111 CMM vessels swarming Julian Felipe Reef. This number grew to 125, as reported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and further increased to 135, scattered around the said reef in recent days.

“No response was made to the radio challenges issued by the PCG to the CMM vessels which is now estimated to have grown to more than 135 vessels dispersed and scattered within Julian Felipe Reef,” Tarriela stated.

Julian Felipe Reef, situated 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza in Palawan, is recognized as a low tide elevation within the territorial waters surrounding the high tide features of the Kalayaan Island Group, such as Chigua Reef, over which the Republic of the Philippines exercises sovereignty.

Tarriel said the PCG reaffirms its steadfast dedication to ensuring maritime security, safety, and environmental protection. This commitment is part of its broader mission to defend the Philippines’ territorial integrity, sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, particularly in the WPS.

He said further that in fulfilling this role, the PCG emphasizes its adherence to international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Arbitral Award. He said their operations are aligned with the regulations set forth in Philippine domestic laws, ensuring a comprehensive and lawful approach to maritime defense.

Admiral Gavan also emphasizes in the statement that the PCG vessels will consistently patrol the WPS in collaboration with relevant components of the NTF WPS.

He underscored the PCG’s unflinching resolve to fulfill its fundamental patriotic duty as the protector of laws and rules to ensure that all Filipinos enjoy peace and prosperity in all maritime territories and jurisdiction of the country consistent with the policy direction of the President, Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.