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China should respect Philippine sovereignty, right to conduct activities in WPS - AFP

The Philippine military on Thursday reiterated China should respect the Philippines' sovereignty and the right to conduct activities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

This after Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office (AFP PAO) chief Colonel Xerxes Trinidad confirmed that Chinese warships shadowed the second joint maritime patrol of the Philippine Navy and the United States Navy in the region.

''Yes, we can confirm the presence of two PLA-N (People’s Liberation Army-Navy) vessels from a distance shadowing the participants of the MCA (maritime cooperative activity). We have identified a PLA-N Destroyer with BN174 and a PLA-N Frigate with BN570,'' Trinidad said in a Viber message.

''The MCA is well within (the) Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). We are hoping that China and other foreign countries will respect our sovereignty and right to conduct the activity that is following international law,'' he added.

Proceeding as planned

In a separate interview with reporters, Trinidad said Philippine authorities could not determine yet the intention of China with regard to the shadowing incident. However, he said that China has been saying that the shadowing was part of its own patrol in the region.

"They are mentioning that is part of their, also of their conduct of drills, or their patrol in the South China Sea, accordingly. 'Yun lang naman po 'yung nabangit nila (That's what they've said) basically so as long they do not interfere or do dangerous maneuvers against our vessels, then we will be proceeding as planned naman and I think we've been doing well," he said.

Trinidad also said the MCA was conducted uneventfully despite delays.

"Everything went well naman po at there is no untoward incident that happened during the conduct of the MCA, although there were delays everything went well." he said.

Meanwhile, Trinidad said that the Philippines would be increasing its participation on this kind of joint patrol exercises with the US.

'Significant leap'

Earlier reports said the Chinese warships, identified as the guided missile destroyer Hefei (174) and the frigate Huangshan (570), followed BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16), her sister ship BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PS-15) and BRP Davao del Sur (LD-602), a landing platform dock, as the Filipino ships sailed in formation for the whole day.

The shadowing vessels, however, did not impede the PN ships' progress as it rendezvoused with the US Navy 7th Fleet for the joint maritime patrol.

AFP chief of staff General Romeo Brawner said the second such joint military activity this week marked a "significant leap" in Manila's alliance with the US and its interoperability with the American military.

"Our alliance is stronger than ever, sending a message to the world. We are advancing a rules-based international order and a free and open Indo-Pacific region in the face of regional challenges," Brawner had said.

GMA News Online has reached out to the Presidential Communications Office for comment on the recent shadowing incident but it has yet to reply as of posting time.—RF, VDV, GMA Integrated News