The Philippine Coast Guard once again recorded sightings of a number of Chinese Coast Guard vessels and other military militia in Philippine-controlled territories in West Philippine Sea.
PCG said that after conducting a maritime domain awareness flight over Pag-asa Island, Ayungin and Sabina shoals in WPS last Wednesday, they still saw “a significant number of foreign flagged vessels, including Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) and presence of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy and Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels were previously observed and reported.”
The coast guard however said the CMM vessels have had a significant decrease in Pag-asa Island from 42 last week to only 15 on Wednesday while in Sabina Shoal, the nimber of Chinese vessels went down from 26 two weeks ago to 17 this week.
PCG also particularly noted the presence of PLA Navy’s Jiangdao Class warship and CCG vessel 5203 that continue to loiter within 12 nautical miles off Pag-asa’s territorial sea.
In Ayungin Shoal, CCG vessel 5304 was observed maintaining its location roughly six nautical miles from BRP Sierra Madre, Philippine Navy’s station in the area.
During the flight, the PCG received a total of seven radio challenges from the CCG vessels: four while over Pag-asa Island’s territorial sea; and three while over the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal.
The PCG is now preparing a complete report on the MDA flight that will be endorsed to the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea for review and analysis. It is alao currently coordinating with the Western Command (WESCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Area Task Force-West (ATF-WEST).
“We join AFP-WESCOM in reiterating that current efforts of our civilian and uniformed services promote adherence to an international rules-based order and strengthen established bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to avoid conflict and maintain peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea,” PCG said.
“Notwithstanding incidents of harassment, coercion, and provocations challenging our legitimate entitlements as articulated by UNCLOS and upheld in the 2016 Arbitral Award, the PCG leadership assures the Filipino public that we will remain steadfast in advancing the national interest,” it added.
Earlier this week, the AFP through WESCOM also said it is realigning its focus on external defense operations in WPS amidst escalating tension in the region brought by the presence of Chinese vessels.