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Area Task Force West intensifies operations in West Philippine Sea

The Area Task Force West under the National Task Force for West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said it has launched intensified operations in West Philippine Sea amid the presence of Chinese vessels in the area.

In a statement on Monday, the Area Task Force West said inter-agency efforts are very essential to address the national concerns in the WPS.

“The Area Task Force West of the National Task Force for NTF-WPS has raised the bar in addressing the recent development of maritime situation in our West Philippine Sea through a more extensive and collaborative effort among its agencies,” it said.

Sea assets shall be continuously deployed to different areas in the WPS to conduct maritime and sovereignty patrols, and other law enforcement activities, the Area Task Force West said.

These operations will cover the Julian Felipe Reef, Pag-asa Cay, Recto Bank, and other parts of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG).

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, through its Western Command, has deployed four Philippine Navy vessels: BRP Dagupan City (LS 551), BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS 36), BRP Magat Salamat (PS 20), and BRP Miguel Malvar (PS 19).

They are providing support and assistance to the Philippine Coast Guard, which has deployed BRP Cabra (MRRV 4409), and to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, which sent two more ships in the area.

"The ATF-West shall continue to do so to ensure that our government forces and agencies will be able to collaborate, complement and support each other in performing respective mandates in support to national policy and strategy," said Area Task Force West chairperson Vice Admiral Ramil Roberto Enriquez.

The task force urged Palaweños and all Filipinos to understand their role and to take their part in the national's stake in the WPS.

Through the whole-of-nation efforts, the task force said the national interests and security will be safeguarded for the present and future generation of Filipinos.

On March 7, around 220 vessels were spotted in the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea, located at 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Palawan Island.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has been demanding for the immediate removal of the Chinese vessels near Julian Felipe Reef.

The Chinese Embassy said that the vessels are only “seeking shelter” near the reef, which they claimed is part of China’s Nansha Islands or Spratlys in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest for the presence of Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef. —KBK, GMA News