AFP plans to build structures on WPS islands

Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea (File)
Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea (File)

ARMED Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Cirilito Sobejana said they have proposed the construction of various structures on islands in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to better protect the disputed territory.

“We are entertaining also the idea subject to the wisdom of National Task Force West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) na magtatayo tayo ng mga istraktura diyan sa lugar katulad ng ginagawa ng China,” Sobejana said in a virtual press conference on Thursday, April 22, 2021.

“Kasi ang dahilan kung bakit hindi tayo nagtatayo diyan nung araw kasi may napag-usapan na wala dapat magpatayo subalit yun ay nilabag ng China, kaya dapat tayo magpatayo na tayo starting now,” he added.

Sobejana said this aims to secure not only the Philippines’ maritime territory but also the Filipino fishermen.

In another interview, AFP spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said among the structures the AFP proposed to build in the WPS are fisherman shelters, cold storage facilities and lighthouses.

He declined to identify the other planned structures for security purposes.

Sobejana said they are also coming up with various tactical approaches to enhance real-time security situational awareness in the WPS amid China’s incursion.

He said this will be implemented in a diplomatic and peaceful manner to avoid conflict with China.

“These things, I think, are not for public consumption for obvious reasons basta ang inyong Armed Forces follow the principle of anticipation to whatever be the event in the future. We are anticipating this to happen and we have the corresponding preparation,” Sobejana said.

“Tuloy-tuloy ‘yung tinatawag nating enhancement of our security posture as far as the prevailing situation is concern in the WPS... Yung massing of Chinese militia and fishing vessel binabantayan. Kung hindi man mapaatras, tinitiyak na ang mga kababayan na mangingisda na tuloy-tuloy sa pangingisda, na hindi ma-violate maritime protection program,” he added.

Sobejana, however, admitted that the country’s naval assets, even with the assistance of the Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), are not enough to conduct efficient sovereignty patrolling in the disputed territory.

He urged Congress to amend the procurement law to allow the military to procure more equipment as well as provide additional funds for the procurement of additional naval assets.

The NTF-WPS earlier said it found 240 Chinese militia vessels moored in the Philippine territorial waters off Kalayaan in Palawan.

Six vessels of the Chinese navy, including at least three warships, have been spotted in the WPS.

Sobejana said they were validating the report that one of the Chinese vessels spotted in the WPS was involved in the destruction of a Filipino fishing boat in Reed Bank in June 2019. (SunStar Philippines)


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