Unmoved by China's new law, Philippine military asserts sovereignty in West Philippine Sea

The Philippine military had previously ordered the deployment of more navy ships to the West Philippine Sea. PHOTO: US NAVY

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Philippine military remains resolute in protecting the country's maritime domain, despite China's new law.

Major-General Edgard Arevalo, spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, gave the assurance last Saturday (Feb 20) that the military was unmoved by China's new law that authorises its coast guard to fire weapons at foreign vessels intruding in its territory.

This was despite the US Department of State expressing alarm last Saturday over the Chinese law. Mr Ned Price, spokesman for the US State Department, said the United States was concerned that "China may invoke this new law to assert its unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, which were thoroughly repudiated by the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling".

In a statement, Major-General Arevalo said: "We will pursue our constitutional mandate and consistently assert our sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

"The protection of our territory and the upholding of the interest of our people is our primary interest."

He added: "We will be, as we have always been, resolute in protecting our maritime domain, regardless of what laws other countries may pass."

Lieutenant-General Cirilito Sobejana, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff, had previously ordered the deployment of more navy ships to the West Philippine Sea to protect Filipino fishermen venturing into the common fishing grounds in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Lieutenant-General Sobejana gave assurance that the Navy would be conducting more patrols and increase visibility in the area.

"I just want to make clear that our navy presence there (West Philippine Sea) is not (aimed at waging) war against China but to secure our own people," he said.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had expressed concern that accidents might happen between patrolling ships of claimants in disputed areas of the South China Sea as a result of China's new law.

Even then, he gave assurance to Filipino fishermen that they would remain safe, and encouraged them to fish on the designated common fishing grounds in the South China Sea.

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