PH Navy: 124 Chinese vessels spotted around WPS ahead Balikatan drills
PH Navy: 124 Chinese vessels spotted around WPS ahead Balikatan drills
PH Navy: 124 Chinese vessels spotted around WPS ahead Balikatan drills
by Christhel Cuazon24 April 2024
Photo courtesy: REUTERS

At least 124 Chinese militia vessels, including warships, were spotted in various parts of the West Philippine Sea in the past three weeks ahead of this year's Balikatan joint military exercise with the United States.

From April 2 to 8, data from the Philippine Navy showed that 78 vessels of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, China Coast Guard, Chinese maritime militia, and fishermen were spotted in the country's territorial waters.

In the same period, 26 vessels were seen around Panatag Shoal including a navy ship, 13 in Ayungin Shoal, 25 near Pagasa Island, five in Kota including another navy vessel, one in Lawak, 6 in Panata and two in Likas.

Meanwhile, between April 9-15, the number of Chinese vessels around Panatag Shoal increased to 43.


The Philippine Navy said that on the week that the country's Balikatan exercise was about to commence, the number of Chinese militia vessels in the areas skyrocketed to 124.

There are now 38 vessels near Panatag Shoal, 31 in Ayungin Shoal, 46 near Pagasa Island including a navy vessel, three in Parola, one navy vessel in Lawak, four in Panata and at least one naval ship in Patag, it stated.

In a statement, Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, the Philippine Navy’s spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, called the upsurge as out of normal.

"I don’t expect them to do anything illegal because of the presence of foreign warships. I expect them to behave properly this time," Trinidad said.


But should Chinese vessels interfere in the joint exercise, he said “there are appropriate measures in place.” He did not elaborate.

On April 22, the Philippines and the United States (US) launched its annual bilateral military exercise or 'Balikatan' in a bid to counter Beijing's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

For this year, the annual drills will focus on bolstering collaboration and readiness across a broad spectrum of critical areas, including external defense operations, cyber defense, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and inter-agency capacity-building.

It will also be concentrated in the northern and western parts of the archipelago nation, near the potential flashpoints of the South China Sea and Taiwan.

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