By Priam Nepomuceno

Philippine Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad (PNA photo by Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – A ranking Philippine Navy (PN) official on Tuesday said military personnel aboard the BRP Sierra Madre (LS-57) in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) are prepared to respond to any incidents, including the possibility of those who might try to take over the ship.

“We all live on plans, we all live on contingency so for every action and situation we have the appropriate contingency plans and for the PN, there are different bills (training) that we practice, when we say bills, different situations that will include repelling boarders, so rest assured that our personnel aboard LS-57, BRP Sierra Madre, have the appropriate actions guided by the rules of engagement,” PN spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said in a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

He said the PN and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are regularly holding patrols to prevent these actions.

“We conduct regular patrols, we involve our partners and allies, we don’t want the situation to escalate,” he said.

He said there would be no let-up in the PN’s resupply and rotation (RORE) missions to Philippine-held features in the WPS despite China’s opposition to these operations.

“We have to understand (that) these are our seas, these are our rights, this is our future. Ito’y ating karagatan, ipaglalaban ng inyong Sandatahang Lakas ang ating karapatan para sa iyong kinabukasan (these are our oceans, your Armed Forces will be fight for your rights and future),” he said.

More Chinese naval vessels in WPS

Meanwhile, the number of Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels spotted in various WPS features increased to 22 from June 4 to 10.

This is double the 11 PLAN ships monitored in these areas from May 28 to June 3.

AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said the 22 PLAN vessels are among the 146 assorted Chinese ships spotted in these waters from June 4 to 10.

These ships, which include China Coast Guard vessels (CCGVs) and Chinese maritime militia vessels (CMMVs), were spotted in the following locations in the WPS:

–Bajo de Masinloc: four CCGVs and 29 CMMVs;

–Ayungin Shoal: five CCGVs, eight PLAN vessels, and 37 CMMVs;

–Pagasa Island: one CCGV, one PLAN vessel, and 40 CCMVs;

–Kota Island: one CCGV and one PLAN vessel;

–Likas Island: one PLAN vessel;

–Panata Island: two PLAN vessels;

–Lawak Island: one CCGV, five PLAN vessels, and two CCMVs;

–Sabina Shoal: four CCGVs and four PLAN vessels. (PNA)