skip to main content

Philippines to increase number of vessels and aircraft monitoring disputed Whitsun Reef

Amid a large presence of Chinese fishing vessels near the disputed Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea (SCS), the Philippine military announced on 27 March that it will increase the number of ships and aircraft deployed to areas near the reef.

Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana said, “We are ready to defend our national sovereignty and protect the marine resources of the Philippines. There will be an increased presence of the Philippine Navy (PN) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ships to conduct sovereignty patrols and protect our fishermen in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).”

Lorenzana noted there are two such vessels in the area – one operated by the PN, and the other by the PCG – monitoring the situation at the reef, adding that the Philippine Air Force is also deploying “an element of AS211 jet aircraft every day with the same mission”.

“Our air and sea assets are ready to protect our sovereignty and sovereign rights in the WPS and KIG (Kalayaan Island Group),” said the defence secretary, adding, “We stand by our position calling for the immediate withdrawal of Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef (Philippine designation for Whitsun Reef), which was communicated to the Chinese Ambassador.”

The announcement comes after Manila accused Beijing on 21 March of massing an estimated 220 “maritime militia vessels” off Whitsun Reef. The PCG first reported seeing the Chinese fishing vessels near the reef on 7 March. In a 20 March statement, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF WPS) said that the vessels, which are moored in line formation, are believed to be manned by “Chinese maritime militia personnel”.

Looking to read the full article?

Gain unlimited access to Janes news and more...