MANILA, Feb 10 (Mabuhay) — The Philippine military will deploy more naval assets to the West Philippine Sea to look after fishermen amid China’s new law allowing its Coast Guard to shoot at foreign vessels in disputed waters, its new chief of staff said Tuesday.
“Ang gagawin natin as part of our mandate to secure the people, i-increase po natin ang ating visibility through the deployment of more naval assets,” said Armed Forces chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana during the day’s Laging Handa briefing.
“But I just want to make clear that our Navy presence there is not to wage war against China but to secure our own people,” he added.
China’s new law — which the Philippines has since protested — allows its forces to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”
Sobejana said he finds the law “very alarming.”
“Well, ‘yung pronouncement ng China na their Coast Guard can open fire to people intruding into their territory, it’s very alarming po ‘yan,” he said.
“I should say it’s a very irresponsible statement dahil hindi naman tayo, ang ating mga kababayan ay hindi naman pumunta sa lugar na ‘yan, sa disputed area para makikipag-giyera kundi naghahanapbuhay,” he added.
For Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, China’s measure could increase the chance of conflict in the disputed waters due to possible “miscalculations and accidents.”
“The Coast Guard of the Chinese are patrolling the disputed area, the same as our Coast Guard and Navy ships, so the chance of accident and miscalculation is great…It might cause an open conflict,” he said on Monday.
In an earlier statement, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said the new law complies with international law as it denied claims that it is a threat of war.
In 2013, the Philippines challenged China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, and won the case in a landmark award in 2016 after the tribunal invalidated Beijing’s claim it owns the South China Seas nearly in its entirety.
Rejecting the ruling, China says its claims have historical basis and are “indisputable” despite encroaching on the territories of its smaller neighbors like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.
China has also claimed and developed some features in parts of the South China Sea, called the West Philippine Sea by Manila. (MNS)
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