West Philippine Sea situation remains volatile due to China, US ‘aggressive actions’

by Warren Ryan Revoltar

In an online news conference with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) on Tuesday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay said that the situation in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) remains volatile due to “certain actions” of both China and the United States to protect their interests in the disputed waters.

“So we have seen aggressive actions on the part of China, you know from reclaiming the area and deploying you know, warships there, (Chinese) Coast Guards are very visible in that area and their maritime militias are there, they are practically swarming most of the areas in the West Philippine Sea and here comes the United States, of course, protecting their interest in maintaining sea lanes (of communications) open and free,” said Gapay.

With these developments affecting Manila’s interest, Gapay said: “We conduct naval and air patrols every day in the West Philippine Sea and it involves seven Navy assets, and no more than 20 aircraft alternately performing air patrols in the area and we are augmented by the Philippine Coast Guard just to maintain the presence in the West Philippine Sea and to send the message to the other countries there and to our allies that this is an assertion of our sovereignty and our efforts in protecting and preserving the territorial integrity of the country.”

“We have troops in those islands, from Pag-asa plus eight other small features in that island, small features in the West Philippine Sea, we (have) barracks there, we’re building local monitoring stations there, and other life support facilities for our troops and this is also one way of maintaining a presence in the area. We have a number of local monitoring stations, monitoring all the vessels plying the West Philippine Sea, challenging them every now and then,” he added.

Furthermore, since the Philippines wants a peaceful resolution and approach to the different issues in the disputed waters, Gapay said most of the actions being adopted by the country are diplomatic. Gapay further stressed that the AFP has aired its desire to have the Code of Conduct in the West Philippine Sea fast-tracked so that it will be ready within the end of the year or early next year.

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