MANILA – Even as it dispatched air and naval assets to confirm a massing of Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) off Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) in the West Philippine Sea, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday said it remains committed in defending the country’s vast maritime interest.
“The AFP’s Western Command ordered the dispatch of Air Force and Navy assets to conduct air and maritime sovereignty patrols to further validate the report,” AFP spokesperson Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement.
He added the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) forwarded them the information regarding the reported sighting of the estimated 220 Chinese maritime militia.
Arevalo said the AFP will not renege from its commitment to protect and defend the country’s maritime interest within the bounds of the law.
“Appropriate reports were made and forwarded to other agencies of government through the General Headquarters of such monitored number of CMM. These reports are made bases of filing appropriate actions not limited to filing of diplomatic protests,” he added.
Earlier, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF WPS) expressed concern about the report from the PCG that around 220 Chinese fishing vessels (CFVs), believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, were sighted moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef last March 7.
“The NTF WPS notes this circumstance as a concern due to the possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to the safety of navigation,” the NTF WPS said.
The reef is a large boomerang-shaped shallow coral reef at the northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs (Union Reefs), located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.
It is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS), over which the country enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources which encompass both living resources, such as fish, and non-living resources such as oil and natural gas. (PNA)