Military backs filing of diplomatic protests vs. China’s latest incursions in WPS

Published June 11, 2022, 3:39 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) expressed its “full support” to the recent filing of diplomatic protests by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) against the latest incursions of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In this undated file photo, Vice Admiral Carlos, commander of the Western Command, personally sees through a maritime patrol in the West Philippine Sea aboard a Philippine Navy aircraft. Carlos is a rated Navy pilot who flew countless of air patrol missions in the West Philippine Sea. (Photo courtesy of Western Command)

Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, commander of the Palawan-based Western Command (WESCOM), confirmed that about 100 Chinese fishing vessels went back to Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef last April 4, a year after a same incident was observed and revealed to the public by the military.

Carlos also said that Filipino boats bringing fresh supplies for troops onboard the BRP Sierra Madre (LS57) at the Ayungin Shoal were also blocked by Chinese vessels in their recent resupply missions.

“WESCOM prays that said diplomatic protests be favorably acted upon by the People’s Republic of China to ensure continued peace and stability in the area,” Carlos said on Saturday, June 11, the eve of the 124th celebration of Independence Day.

The WESCOM commander also expressed hope that the maritime row between the Philippines and China “be diplomatically resolved” as soon as possible “to avoid any miscalculation of actions and ensure peaceful coexistence of all stakeholders.”

“In the meantime, WESCOM assures the Filipino people that Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights will not be compromised in the WPS,” said Carlos, a rated Philippine Navy pilot who flew several WPS air patrol missions.

In March 2021, about 220 Chinese maritime militia and fishing vessels swarmed Julian Felipe Reef, a boomerang-shaped and shallow coral reef at the northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs (Union Reefs) located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.

The reef is positioned within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf (CS), over which the country enjoys exclusive right to exploit or conserve any living and non-living resources like fish, oil, and natural gas.

Meanwhile, Philippine resupply vessels to Ayungin Shoal have notoriously been harassed by Chinese vessels as reported by the military. The shoal is located 105 nautical miles west of Palawan.

In November 2021, three China Coast Guard vessels fired water cannons on two Philippine fishing boats which were supposed to deliver fresh supplies for troops at the BRP Sierra Madre. The BRP Sierra Madre was deliberately ran aground on Ayungin Shoal in 1991 to serve as the outpost of military troops for the Philippine-claimed shoal.

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had said on Nov. 21, 2021 that Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian would no longer bother the resupply mission for Filipino troops in the Ayungin Shoal but recent incidents proved otherwise.