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Philippines boosts aerial, naval patrol of West Philippine Sea

The Philippine military announced on 22 April that it is increasing the number of aerial and naval assets deployed to areas claimed by Manila in the South China Sea (SCS) amid a large presence of Chinese vessels in the disputed waters.

General Cirilito Sobejana, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), was quoted by the state-owned Philippine News Agency (PNA) as saying, ”We are currently augmenting … our air and naval assets in support to the National Task Force [for] the West Philippine Sea [NTF-WPS], and working alongside the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources”.

The general said the AFP currently has 10 naval assets conducting “sovereignty patrols” in the area, adding that the military is documenting “every violation” China is committing against the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and forwarding them to the Department of Foreign Affairs to support diplomatic protests, according to the PNA.

The ships are believed to include strategic sealift vessel BRP Tarlac (601), Bacolod City (Frank S Besson)-class logistics support vessel BRP Dagupan City (LS 551), as well as several corvettes, patrol vessels, and at least one frigate.

According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, five aircraft from the Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy are conducting aerial patrols from Palawan Province, but the AFP’s Western Command, which is based in Palawan, has asked for more assets.

The latest developments come after the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) in Manila quoted the NTF-WPS as saying on 13 April that in the latest round of “sovereignty patrols” on 11 April, an estimated 240 Chinese vessels were observed “lingering in the WPS”.

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