PHILIPPINE flags were raised in two territories in the contested waters of the South China Sea in observation of the country’s 117th Independence Day and in defiance of China’s claim to the same islands.
Two separate flag raising ceremonies were held on the islet of Sierra Madre and Pagasa Island, both of which are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone near the Palawan frontier, said Armed Forces Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Harold Babunoc.
In Sierra Madre, Filipino troops manning the islet hoisted the flag, while local government officials led by Mayor Bitoonon led the ceremony on Pagasa Island.
“The raising of flags in both Philippine territories is a glaring display of the presence of our troops deployed in the area and to show ownership to both areas,” Cabunoc said.
He described the ceremony as a manifestation of nationalism of the troops despite the aggressive behavior of China in the South China Sea.
“Our soldiers are prepared to defend these territories from any armed aggression,” Cabunoc said.
Philippine flags were also raised in all Navy detachments facing the South China Sea.
China has claimed the entire disputed chain of islets, reefs and shoals believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits, and is extensively reclaiming land in these contested areas.
China had also enforced an air defense identification zone to prohibit any aircraft from hovering over the disputed areas.
China’s flexing of muscles in the South China Sea has prompted the US government to send surveillance planes to the area to monitor Beijing’s activities.
Last week the G7 countries also chided China for its reclamation operations in the disputed territories.