Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Cirilito Sobejana admitted Thursday the number of naval ships and other assets deployed in the West Philippine Sea is not enough to patrol the disputed area.
In a press conference, Sobejana said the Philippine Navy has been upgrading its assets as part of the modernization program to be able to secure the country’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.
“Sapat ba ang number ng ating naval assets, even 'yung Coast Guard at partner sa BFAR? Sagot ko sa'yo ay kulang pa dahil napakalawak ng West Philippine Sea,” he said.
(Is the number of the our naval assets, even with the Coast Guard and our partners in BFAR, enough? My answer is it is still inadequate because of the vastness of the West Philippine Sea.)
Because of this, Sobejana called on legislators to provide more funds for the modernization of the military and improve the “rigged” procurement law, which he said makes the purchasing process hard for the AFP.
On Wednesday, the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said the country will deploy additional assets to the area to assert the country's territorial claims and prevent illegal fishing.
On March 7, around 220 vessels were spotted near the Julian Felipe Reef, located 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Palawan and part of the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The NTF WPS reported that 240 Chinese militia vessels were scattered in Philippine territorial waters off Kalayaan in Palawan and are within the Philippines' EEZ. Aside from these, six vessels of the Chinese navy, including at least three warships, have been spotted in the WPS.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had demanded for the immediate removal of the Chinese vessels from the Julian Felipe Reef.
The Chinese Embassy claimed that the vessels were only “seeking shelter” near the reef, which they claimed was part of China’s Nansha Islands or Spratlys in the South China Sea.
China has been insisting ownership over nearly the entire South China Sea — a claim debunked by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016 following a lawsuit filed by the Philippines.
The Philippines filed diplomatic protests over the presence of Chinese vessels.—AOL, GMA News