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AFP: Sovereignty patrols in WPS to continue

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines will continue with its sovereignty patrols after a Chinese coast guard ship caused a near-collision with a Philippine Coast Guard vessel Sunday last week.

The PCG also rejected Beijing’s claim that the Philippine ship’s “premeditated and provocative action” caused the near-collision, saying it was a “routine maritime patrol.”

“As for the AFP, we will continue our maritime patrols, our sovereignty patrols, especially in our territorial waters within our exclusive economic zone,” military spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said.

Aguilar, however, said the AFP will leave it up to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, headed by National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, to make policy statements on the issue.

PCG spokesman on the WPS Commodore Jay Tarriela, for his part, said the maritime patrol “did not undermine the interests of other states.”

“The routine, seven-day maritime patrol carried out by the Philippine Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea from April 18 to 24 was non-provocative,” Tarriela said on his personal Twitter account.

Last Sunday, a larger Chinese coast guard vessel blocked PCG vessel BRP Malapascua, which was carrying journalists in the vicinity of the Ayungin Shoal, in internationally recognized Philippine waters. The two vessels would have collided had the commanding officer of the PCG vessel not stopped his ship.

The Chinese foreign ministry claimed the Philippine boats had “intruded” without China’s permission.

Tarriela, however, upheld that the PCG was “under no obligation to request permission from other nations” when patrolling the waters near Ayungin Shoal.

“Throughout their maritime patrol operations, PCG captains consistently follow the 1972 Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs),” he said.

Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said an investigation into the near-collision is already ongoing and appropriate diplomatic action will then be taken.

“First of all, I would like to emphasize that the Philippines has the legal right to carry out routine maritime patrols in our territorial waters and EEZ. The deployment of the BRP Malabrigo and BRP Malapascua in the West Philippine Sea from April 18 to 24 was one such mission,” she said.

Daza added that the interference committed by China’s Coast Guard with the routine patrol “was totally inconsistent with freedom of navigation.”

“A number of documented incidents also involved highly dangerous maneuvers that were contrary to standard navigational practices,” she said.


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