AFP: No sightings of anti-ship ballistic missile test in West PH Sea

Robie de Guzman   •   July 5, 2019   •   4403

A Filipino soldier patrols at the shore of Pagasa island (Thitu Island) in the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, May 11, 2015. REUTERS/RITCHIE B. TONGO/POOL

MANILA, Philippines – The Western Command (WESCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said there is no monitored sighting of an anti-ship ballistic test in the West Philippine Sea, following reports of a missile launch by China in the area.

“Based on the report of our operating units, particularly the Joint Task Force West, there is no monitored sighting of anti-ship ballistic missile test conducted in our joint area of operations,” the AFP said in a statement dated July 3.

The military assured it is regularly conducting maritime patrol missions in the Philippine-held island detachments, especially in the West Philippine Sea.

“WESCOM is continuously monitoring our area of responsibility especially in the West Philippine Sea and conducts regular maritime and sovereignty patrol missions incessantly to sustain our presence in the 9 PH-held island detachments,” the AFP said.   

The military issued the statement after Pentagon reported about China’s “disturbing” missile launch near the Spratly (Kalayaan) islands that is contrary to Beijing’s pledge in 2015 not to militarize the man-made outposts in the disputed waterway.

The Philippine Department of National Defense earlier said an inquiry into the said reports will be conducted.

“We will decide later what to do if proven correct,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a message sent to reporters.  

PHL, Chinese Coast Guard hold joint maritime drills in Manila

Robie de Guzman   •   January 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard and Chinese Coast Guard on Wednesday conducted joint maritime drills on search and rescue and combating fire at sea in the waters off the Philippine capital.

In a statement, the PCG said participating Filipino and Chinese personnel were given a scenario involving a vessel that caught fire while transiting Manila waters.

In response, the PCG deployed its 44-meter multi-role response vessel 4401, BRP Tubbataha, while the Chinese team dispatched vessel 5204. Both ships were equipped with water cannons used in firefighting assistance.

Five passengers and eight crew aboard the distressed ship were also rescued using rigid hull inflatable boats with rescue swimmers to aid the victims.

The PCG said the drill allows coast guard personnel to exercise interoperability and strengthen their capabilities in responding to such crises.

The joint maritime drills on search and rescue, and combating fire at sea are part of the week-long activities of Chinese Coast Guard’s port call in Manila.

The visit aims to strengthen understanding, mutual trust, and cooperation between the Philippines and China Coast Guard in a bid to promote maritime security and maritime law enforcement amid the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

PH, China Coast Guard to hold joint maritime exercises next week

Robie de Guzman   •   January 10, 2020

FILE PHOTO: A Chinese Coast Guard vessel is pictured on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea March 29, 2014. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

MANILA, Philippines – The Chinese Coast Guard will dock in Manila on Monday, January 13 for a five-day goodwill visit, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said Friday.

PCG spokesperson Captain Armand Balilo said the China Coast Guard, headed by Director General Major General Wang Zhongcai, will visit the country for the conduct of maritime exercises with the PCG.

Participating coast guard members from the two countries will also hold search and rescue, and firefighting exercises. The drill will be held from January 13 to 17.

Balilo said that during the port visit, the Chinese and the Philippine coast guards will come up with a resolution that would ensure the security and safety of Filipino fishermen and public vessels traversing the country’s waters.

The PCG said it will welcome the China Coast Guard not with red carpet but with diplomatic reciprocity, the same way it welcomed the PCG during a past visit.

The Philippines has been in dispute with China over territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea.

On several cases, Chinese ships were reported to have been circling shoals under the Philippine territory, including the vicinity of Pagasa Island in the West Philippine Sea. There were also cases of Filipino vessels reportedly harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard vessels.

The PCG expressed hope that the drill would be an opportunity for both sides to discuss the issue, and help improve the line of communication between the two nations when it comes to maritime patrol.

“Para magkaintindihan din kasi ang iniisip nga namin kung merong ma-enhance iyong pagkakaibigan baka sakaling magkaintindihan, even doon sa patrol at tsaka sa mga challenges, baka magkaroon ng tamang protocol kung paano ang dapat na engagement,” Balilo said.

AFP to send ships, planes, 2 battalions for repatriation of OFWs

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 8, 2020

The Department of National Defense (DND) said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will send two ships, three planes, and two battalions for the repatriation of overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) in the Middles East.

DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the two landing ships can accommodate 500 persons each. They will also send two C130 and a C295 planes.

Lorenzana clarified the two battalions will be deployed to assist Filipinos who will return to the country as tension continues to rise between the United States (US) and Iran.

“The two battalions will not be there to engage in combat with anybody, but to facilitate or help assist in the repatriation of the OFWs especially in Iraq. Hindi sila magpunta doon para makipaglaban, (they will not be sent there to fight)” Lorenzana said.

The Defense Secretary also said they also considering to use cruise ships and commercial airlines to accommodate more Filipinos returning home.

Meanwhile, the BRP Gabriela Silang of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is set to sail in the Middle East to assist in the repatriation.

Lorenzana also raised concerns over Filipinos who will refuse to leave the Middle East and said it will be a challenge.

“Some Filipinos do not want to leave their job. Kasi sabi nila, ‘anong gagawin natin sa Pilipinas?’ (because they will say ‘what will they do in the Philippines?’) But hopefully, we will be able to convince them—kung medyo delikado iyong buhay nila (if their lives are in danger)—to come home,” he said.—AAC (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

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