Western Command commander Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos, a rated Navy pilot who has flown countless WPS air patrol missions, oversees this maritime patrol aboard a Philippine Navy aircraft. (Photo from WESCOM)

The Western Command (WESCOM) is backing the Philippines’ diplomatic protest over the deployment of around one hundred Chinese militia and fishing vessels in Julian Felipe Reef and the blockade of the entrance to Ayungin Shoal, where Filipino soldiers are stationed.

In a statement issued on Saturday by WESCOM under the command of Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos, it was stated that a recent attempt to resupply troops aboard the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) was hampered by deployed fish nets and anchored Chinese fishing vessels.

WESCOM prays that Beijing will respond favorably to the diplomatic protest lodged by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in order to keep peace and stability in the disputed region.

“Further, WESCOM hopes that West Philippine Sea (WPS) issues can be diplomatically resolved soonest in order to avoid any miscalculation of actions and ensure peaceful coexistence of all stakeholders until conflicting maritime claims of some portions of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone are amicably settled,” it stated.

WESCOM reassured the public that territorial integrity and sovereign rights will not be compromised in the WPS region.

It stated further that it will maintain a strong presence in the region through the effective occupation of Philippine-held WPS features and will continue joint naval and maritime air patrols with other government agencies, including the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and Philippine National Police (PNP) Maritime Group.

“In view of these latest developments, we at WESCOM enjoin the public to be more circumspect in dealing with this issue in order to maintain regional peace and stability. Let us support the National Government and its initiatives as we explore peaceful resolutions to this impasse affecting our Western Frontier,” it said.

On June 10, the DFA filed another diplomatic protest over China’s activities in the Ayungin Shoal, including the installation of buoys and fish nets blocking its entrance.

It said China Coast Guard vessels have shadowed Philippine boats on a rotation and re-provision mission.

Among others, it illegally fished in the area and installed buoys and fish nets “that blocked the shoal’s entrance.”

“The 2016 Arbitral Award affirmed that Ayungin Shoal is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. China has no right to fish, monitor, or interfere with (the Philippines’) legitimate activities therein,” the DFA report added.

The department reiterated its calls on Beijing to comply with its obligations under international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Arbitral Award.

The latest protest came a day after DFA said it lodged a note verbale against the return of 100 Chinese fishing vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef. (with reports from Joyce Ann Rocamora/PNA)