Philippines includes China, 4 other countries in travel ban list

Marje Pelayo   •   January 12, 2021   •   890

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang announced Tuesday (January 12) that the Philippine government is expanding its travel ban to include China and four other countries amid threats of a new coronavirus (COVID-19) variant.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that apart from China, travelers from Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg and Oman are also not allowed to enter the country starting Wednesday (January 13) to Friday (January 15).

The expansion of travel restriction is part of the country’s measures to prevent the entry of new variants of coronavirus that were initially reported affecting residents in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

With five additional nations on the list, the Philippines so far has banned flights to and from 33 countries.

READ: PH expands entry restrictions, bans travelers from the US effective Jan. 3

However, the government clarified that Filipinos coming from the said countries may be allowed entry subject to a 14-day absolute facility-based quarantine period. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

NTF-WPS: Over 200 Chinese vessels still in West Philippine Sea

Robie de Guzman   •   April 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — An estimated 240 Chinese vessels continue to linger in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) reported.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the NTF-WPS denounced the continuous swarming in the West Philippine Sea by the Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia which are claimed by Chinese authorities to be ordinary fishing vessels.

The NTF-WPS said that its sovereignty patrols conducted on April 11 observed an estimated 240 Chinese vessels in the Philippines’ territorial waters.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command (WesCom) reported the presence of Chinese maritime militia vessels in the territorial waters of the Municipality of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan, and the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

The AFP-WesCom said that the Chinese vessels were found in the following areas:

  • 136 vessels at Burgos (Gaven) Reef
  • 9 vessels at Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun)
  • 65 at Chigua (McKennan) Reef
  • 6 at Panganiban (Mischief) Reef
  • 3 at Zamora (Subi) Reef
  • 4 at the Pagasa (Thitu) Islands
  • 1 at Likas (West York) Island
  • 5 ay Kota (Loaita) Island
    11 at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal

“These 240 CMM vessels, now dispersed at the Pagkakaisa (Union) Banks and Pagasa Islands are about 60 meters in length. A minimum estimate that each can catch one ton of fish amounts to a conservative total of 240,000 kilos of fish illegally taken from Philippine waters every single day that the massed Chinese fishing vessels remain in the West Philippine Sea,” the NTF-WPS said.

“These acts fall under illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,” it added.

The task force also said that an earlier patrol conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard observed Chinese poachers collecting giant clams in the vicinity of the Pagasa Islands. The poachers quickly departed when approached by the Philippine Coast Guard.

“This act is a blatant violation of Philippine fisheries and wildlife laws, and the Convention International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),” the NTF-WPS said.

Also spotted during the sovereignty patrol were the following People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels – two Houbei class missile warships at Panganiban Reef, one Corvette class warship at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, and one Navy Tugboat at Zamora Reef. Further, two CCG vessels were seen in the territorial sea of the Pagasa Islands.

Additional monitoring by the AFP reported two PLAN, three Chinese Coast Guard, and 10 maritime militia vessels at Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough) Shoal. All these warships of the PLA Navy contribute to the militarization of the area.

The NTF-WPS said the combined presence of PLAN warships, CCG, and CMM in the Municipality of Kalayaan and the Philippine EEZ is “prejudicial to the peace and security of the region.”

“The continuous swarming of Chinese vessels poses a threat to the safety of navigation, safety of life at sea, and impedes the exclusive right of Filipinos to benefit from the marine wealth in the EEZ,” it said.

“The Philippine government reiterates its demand upon China to withdraw all its vessels from the Municipality of Kalayaan and the Philippine EEZ,” it added.

The NTF-WPS further called on China to respect Philippine sovereignty.

“In keeping with its role as a development partner, China should take the Philippine representations seriously and respect Philippine sovereignty, rights, and interests in consonance with the further strengthening of Philippine-China bilateral relations,” it said.

The NTF-WPS’ intensified maritime operations in the West Philippine Sea follow the recent escalation of disputes over the resource-rich waters in March after the Philippine military spotted more than 200 Chinese boats at the Julian Felipe Reef.

China claimed that the area is part of its traditional fishing ground and that the vessels there were not maritime militia vessels but fishing boats that were only seeking temporary shelter due to rough sea conditions.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said it has summoned Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian to explain the lingering presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

The DFA has repeatedly fired off diplomatic protest and called for the immediate withdrawal of the vessels.

PH intensifies sovereignty patrols in West Philippine Sea

Robie de Guzman   •   April 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Area Task Force West of the National Task Force for West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) on Tuesday said it has launched intensified inter-agency maritime operations in the West Philippine Sea.

In a statement, the Area Task Force West said this is part of the measures they are taking in addressing the recent development of the maritime situation in the West Philippine Sea through a more extensive and collaborative effort among its member agencies.

The task force said the intensified maritime operations include the deployment of government sea assets to various areas in the contested waters to conduct sovereignty patrols and other operations.

“Sea assets are and shall be continuously deployed to different areas in the WPS to conduct maritime and sovereignty patrols, and other law enforcement activities, including the Julian Felipe Reef, Pag-asa Cay, Recto Bank, and other parts of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG),” it added.

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

The said ships are also 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.

“These inter-agency efforts are very essential in the way we address the national concerns in the WPS. 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 chairman of ATF-West Vice Admiral Ramil Roberto Enriquez.

The ATF-West also urged all Filipinos to know and understand their role, and to take their part in the nation’s stake in the WPS so that “through the whole-of-nation efforts, the national interests and security will be safeguarded for the present and future generation of the Filipino people.”

The intensified maritime operations in the West Philippine Sea follow the recent escalation of disputes over the resource-rich waters in March after the Philippine military spotted more than 200 Chinese boats at the Julian Felipe Reef.

China claimed that the area is part of its traditional fishing ground and that the vessels there were not maritime militia vessels but fishing boats that were only seeking temporary shelter due to rough sea conditions.

The Philippine government, however, insisted that Julian Felipe Reef is part of the Kalayaan Island Group and lies in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of the Philippines. It is located 175 nautical miles west of Batarza town in Palawan and 638,229 nautical miles from Hainan Island.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly fired off diplomatic protests and called for the immediate withdrawal of the vessels. China, however, refused the appeals.

PH Military to probe alleged China harassment of TV crew in West Philippine Sea

Robie de Guzman   •   April 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been ordered to conduct an investigation into the alleged harassment of Chinese vessels on a Filipino television crew in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Friday.

In a statement, DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the AFP will gather and validate all information relating to the incident.

“The Defense Department has directed the AFP through its Western Command to investigate, gather, and validate all the relevant facts on the incident,” he said.

Andolong said the outcome of the investigation will be used to coordinate any appropriate action through the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea, as well as engagement among the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Transportation, and other concerned agencies.

“We are concerned for the safety of anyone — unarmed civilians — at sea. As such, we view the report with concern,” he said.

In a separate statement, the AFP has expressed concern over the reported harassment of Chinese PLA Navy Vessels and a Chinese Coast Guard on another vessel carrying a television crew.

The media team was reportedly chased by Chinese boats while on its way to Ayungin Shoal, about 105 nautical miles from Palawan. The area is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

AFP Spokesperson Marine Major General Edgard Arevalo said the Western Mindanao Command is looking into the incident to establish what really transpired.

“We have made representations with the news reporter to provide us raw footage or photographs they have of the incident to help us establish the circumstances and document the incident,” Arevalo said.

He, likewise, appealed to journalists to “exercise prudence in the course of their job.”

“We have accommodated members of media in our ships and aircraft to do their coverage so they can be protected while in the practice of their profession,” Arevalo said.

He added, “The AFP is concerned with the safety and well-being of our Kababayans that we have been forthright and transparent in our reporting about the situation in our EEZ.”

“Amidst the situation, the AFP reiterates its commitment to follow the dictates of the Constitution to protect the people and secure our sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he said.

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