Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana confirmed in a statement Thursday, March 31 the presence of illegal, man-made structures on some features of Palawan’s Pagkakaisa Banks.
Sobejana said the discovery was made during regular maritime patrol (marpat) Wednesday, March 30 in the Pagkakaisa or Union Banks that are within the Kalayaan Islands Group (KIG) under the Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan.
“During this patrol we were able to document man-made structures that were built on some of the features. These structures are illegal,” Sobejana said.
“The Laws of the Sea gives the Philippines indisputable and exclusive rights over the area. These constructions and other activities, economic or otherwise, are prejudicial to peace, good order, and security of our territorial waters,” he stressed.
The discovery came amid the increased presence and activity of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) the past few months.
“We have already updated our higher civilian authorities such as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Department of National Defense (DND) about these offenses to our sovereignty,” the Sobejana said, referring to the illegal structures.
“We ensure every Filipino that our efforts to dutifully perform our mandate to protect and advance our national interests in the area continue unhampere,” the AFP chief added.
The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) had earlier said that around 220 Chinese vessels believed to be manned by maritime militia were spotted at the Julian Felipe Reef, which is located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.
On March 29, the NTF-WPS said most of the vessels departed the Julian Felipe Reef but dispersed to other features in the WPS and KIG in Palawan.