Western Command (WESCOM) has increased its presence and maritime domain awareness in the West Philippine Sea by sending more Philippine Navy (PN) vessels and Philippine Air Force (PAF) reconnaissance flights to patrol the area.

The move was made by WESCOM following the directive from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to shift their focus to external security and his statement that not a square inch of Philippine territory will be lost under his watch.

In a statement, WESCOM said that for the first quarter of the calendar year 2023, its “operational tempo” in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) would significantly increase.

“This means that more government ships are staying out at sea for longer periods of time, and government aircraft flights over WPS have become more frequent,” the statement read.

“Together with our partner agencies—the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources—the Philippine Navy established a strong maritime presence in the area with the sustained deployments of their respective ships in WPS, especially in the vicinity of Pag-asa Island,” WESCOM chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos said.

He added that the move was also intended to address the continued increase in the presence of suspected foreign militia vessels in the area.

He further stated that WESCOM also increased the frequency of maritime air patrols to closely monitor the activities of foreign vessels in the WPS and the developments on foreign-occupied features in the WPS.

“Good weather and the availability of surveillance aircraft from the Philippine Air Force and our partner agencies allowed WESCOM to have a comprehensive, accurate, and timely maritime domain awareness (MDA) picture in the WPS,” Carlos said.

The top military official in Palawan also said the increased operational tempo is estimated to be about 50% above 2022 figures.

“We will try very hard to sustain our 1st quarter optempo for the rest of the year, ” Carlos vowed.