THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday said the presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea has increased amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
AFP Chief of Staff General Gilbert Gapay said the Philippine Army has monitoring capabilities that will be able to detect the presence of foreign vessels in the area.
In a radio interview, Gapay admitted that foreign vessels are increasing.
“Yes, dumami ‘yan dahil namomonitor na natin. Dati kasi marami na talaga pero wala tayong capability to monitor. Ngayon mayroon na tayong monitoring capability at ‘yun nga nakita na natin kung gaano kalawak ang operasyon ng Chinese, ‘yung People’s Liberation Army diyan sa West Philippine Sea,” Gapay said.
Gapay added that most of the vessels are fishing vessels, some are their maritime exploration vessels and the rest are research vessels and are backed up by warships and forces from the Chinese Coast Guard.
The Chief of Staff said government forces are also challenging foreign vessels especially if they are already encroaching on Philippine waters.
He said that as of this time, the activities of Chinese vessels in the area are not hostile and all their activities are legitimate.
Gapay added that the Philippine government has also been filing diplomatic protests against China’s intrusive actions.
Earlier, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said the Asian Superpower has continued to patrol the West Philippine Sea from December 2019 to November 2020, even heightening the frequency of its patrols in the Ayungin and Scarborough Shoals.