Philippine Navy notices China's 'light change of behavior' over foreign navy vessels presence amid Balikatan

The Philippine Navy has monitored what it described as a light change of behavior on the part of China following the presence of foreign vessels that have been participating in this year’s Balikatan Exercises wherein the war games locations include some portion of the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

But Navy spokesperson Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said they have been expecting China to behave at the course of the Balikatan exercises which started on April 22 until May 10.

“I mentioned before that I expect China to behave. So far, their actions have been consistent, they have behaved. I mentioned that because of the presence of foreign warships so we have seen a change, a light change in their behavior because of the multilateral maritime exercise,” said Trinidad.

The official attributed China’s change of behavior to the presence of foreign vessels, particularly at the course of the Multilateral Maritime Exercise (MMEs) that includes the United States, the Philippines and the French navies.

The MMEs have already concluded on Monday, April 29.

“I attribute this to the coalition, to the international coalition that conducted the multilateral maritime exercise. We have seen a marked change in their behavior, along that line expect more multilateral maritime activities in the future,” said Trinidad on the light change of behavior of China. 

The 15th observer

At the beginning of Balikatan, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said a total of 14 countries sent their respective representatives to act as observers in the conduct of war games between the Philippines and the United States.

On the part of Balikatan Executive Agent Col. Mike Logico, there has been a 15th observer which is not invited in the maritime exercises, and that is China.

He is referring to the presence of two Chinese navy vessels that were spotted over the weekend in the West Philippine Sea.

At the same time, the military reported that it monitored an upsurge of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea, starting a few days before the start of the Balikatan.

‘Well they were not invited… they have the best seat in the house because they were able to witness the best of the Philippine Navy, the US navy and the French Navy,” said Logico.

But the uninvited presence of Chinese vessels, according to Logico, only motivated those who participated in the MME among the three countries.

“Because they were there, our training audience were motivated to show off all of their capabilities,” said Logico.

The Chinese vessels monitored, however, were far from the group sail of the three navies as they were located in the high seas, particularly the two Chinese Navy vessels.


“Their (China) presence there could be construed as freedom of navigation for as long as they did not launch any aircraft from their ships or send any underwater assets below or conduct any illegal or dangerous maneuvers, that would have been fine,” said Logico.

'`However, if they enter into a training, an established training area that has been covered by notice to mariners so that was created for their safety and the safety of all commercial vessels, entering it would have been a big risk on their part,” he added.

No sail zone

Logico said that the Philippine Coast Guard has approved the no sail zone which they requested for the entire duration of the Balikatan exercises off the waters of Ilocos Region and Zambales.

“There is a ‘no sail zone’ we requested for a notam and that has been approved by the Philippine Coast Guard. The important thing is that there is a ‘no sail zone’, that is for their safety,” said Logico.

“if they want to roll the dice and enter into the Notice to Mariners area we will be stopping them because we are conducting picket operations in the exercise area,” he added.