From InterAksyon (Apr 24): Westcom intensifies territorial patrol in WPS
Sovereignty and territorial patrols have been intensified in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) amid aggressive actions by Chinese ships against fishermen and even military patrol planes conducting run-ins over the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) town in Palawan.
"We have to do our mandate that is to protect and defend our territories. We will use all our assets available at the disposal of my command to cover our territorial and sovereignty patrol in the West Philippine Sea," Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, commander of the Western Command (Westcom) based in Palawan, said Friday in a telephone interview.
He said the naval assets have been beefed up, including air assets from the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
Lopez said there is no need to increase the number of troops stationed in Ayungin Shoal and Pagasa Island, which have been under threat by Chinese maritime and naval ships as Beijing continues its massive reclamation activities, thereby totally defacing coral reefs located within the KIG and converting these biodiversity sanctuaries into small artificial islets with the construction of military airfields and garrisons.
In Ayungin, there are Marine troops stationed on board the BRP Sierra Madre shipwreck, from which the Chinese had for many times tried to block Philippine Navy's resupply missions to the troops.
Pagasa, the center of political leadership of the local government unit (LGU) populated by less than 400 civilians, soldiers not included, is also under threat by Chinese incursions.
Earlier, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala said the reclamation activities and construction by the Chinese in Kagitingan (Subi) Reef could seal off the area, thus depriving resupply to the troops in Ayungin and civilians and troops in Pagasa.
On Monday this week, a Chinese naval ship shooed away a tandem of Philippine Navy Islander patrol aircraft carrying out routine aerial patrol over Kagitingan.
Environmentalist groups have also expressed alarm at the extent of environmental destruction caused by the aggressive and massive reclamation by China.