Pag-asa Island sightings don’t equate to 600 Chinese vessels: AFP

Sightings do not automatically mean that there really 600 plus Chinese ships, of various sizes and types, off Pag-asa Island in any given time, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. said Monday.

“I just talked with the WESCOM (Western Command) commander (Vice Admiral Rene Medina). ‘Yung report na binanggit, nasa mgaaround 600 plus yun yung sinasabi na (The report said there are around 600 plus vessels) for the (first three months of 2019) year. But pag binilang mo yung, lahat na yun sa sightings, ‘yung involved na mga vessels (if you count all of that sightings and the involved vessels), it’s below that kasi yung sinabing sightings (the sightings that were mentioned), these are the same vessels that are sighted, siguro mga(maybe) around 200 plus, yung (the) 600 is sightings but ‘yung involved na mga (the involved) vessels (are) basically the same vessels na paulit-ulit na sila yung nakikita (they are just the ones seen repetitively),” he added.

WESCOM is based in Puerto Princesa, Palawan and is responsible for securing the province and its vast maritime domains, including the Kalayaan Island Group.

Also, Madrigal said military patrols are regularly carried out together with the Philippine Coast Guard.

When asked if whether the AFP is recommending the filing of a protest on the matter, the AFP chief said that is the duty of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.

“Ito’y tinitingnan naman natin yung (We are looking at it), we have coordination with (the) committee (National Task Force) ‘yung West Philippine Sea committee na tumitingin naman dun (the one that oversees that),” he added.

Meanwhile, the Department of National Defense (DND) said it is continuously monitoring the presence of Chinese vessels and their activities off the waters of Pag-asa Island. 

“The Department of National Defense, meanwhile, has been communicating reports of the above (matter) to the Department of Foreign Affairs for appropriate action. Just as the Philippines honors our international obligations and protocols, we also expect other countries and their vessels to do the same especially when sailing and fishing in international waters. This is necessary in order to avoid any misunderstanding and to reduce tensions between countries in the region,” the DND said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the agency encouraged Filipino fishermen to continue their fishing activities in the country’s waters and Exclusive Economic Zone. PNA