PH Navy reports decrease in Chinese vessels in WPS as Balikatan Exercise nears conclusion


The number of Chinese vessels dwindled in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as the 39th iteration of the joint military exercise of the Philippines and US “Balikatan Exercise” draws to a close, the Philippine Navy (PN) said on Friday, May 10.

“For the past week, we monitored 104 different vessels from the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Navy, the coast guard and the maritime militia. This is a drop from the 129 in the previous weeks and kung mapansin natin, tumutugma ito sa trend ng Balikatan (if we notice, this aligns with the trend of the Balikatan),” Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, the spokesperson for the Philippine Navy for the WPS, said.

“Just before Balikatan, it was more or less this number, and then, noong paumpisa ang Balikatan nag-spike pataas (when the Balikatan started, it went up. Ngayong patapos, nag-drop na naman (Now that it is ending, their number dropped),” he added.

Calling them “uninvited guests”, Trinidad said the Chinese vessels have been closely observing the Balikatan exercises.

“Fourteen iyong invited, kinse ang dumating, may isang uninvited na dumating (Fourteen were invited, fifteen came, and one arrived uninvited),” he said, referring to China.

This year, fourteen nations participated in the international observer program hosted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP): Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Of the 104 Chinese vessels, Trinidad said a lot of them are concentrated in Mischief Reef and Ayungin Shoal.

“Magkalapit lang iyan, that is only 20 nautical miles. Pag-asa and Bajo de Masinloc at may mga mangilan-ilan sa ibang features natin sa West Philippine Sea (Those are just close to each other, that is only 20 nautical miles. Pag-asa and Bajo de Masinloc, and there are a few others in our features in the West Philippine Sea),” he said.

The 39th iteration of Balikatan, the largest annual bilateral training exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the U.S. military, took place from April 22 to May 10.

Over 16,000 members of the AFP and the US military participated in the Balikatan.