China eavesdropping on PH maritime activities?

by Jaime Laude, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 20 2014 11:30 AM | Updated as of Apr 20 2014 07:30 PM

MANILA - China has not only deployed and maintained the presence of its surveillance and navy ships in the West Philippine Sea, but has positioned advanced communications equipment as well to eavesdrop on all naval and maritime activities of the Philippine military based in Palawan.

“The Chinese, using their advanced communication equipment, are now capable of intercepting and monitoring our military communications, be it onshore or offshore,” a military communication expert revealed recently.

The focus of the electronic eavesdropping is the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Command (Wescom).

Wescom has the primary responsibility in protecting, guarding and enforcing the country’s sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea, a large part of which is being claimed by China as an integral part of its maritime domain.

The military, however, said countermeasures has been implemented to address this concern. They declined to give details, citing security issues.

Earlier intelligence reports showed Beijing is installing additional powerful radars on its already-fortified advanced naval station on Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, an area it illegally occupied in 1994, in line with its plan to have total dominance of the entire region by year 2020.

Panganiban Reef is 130 nautical miles from Palawan and is within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

Chinese vessels deployed in the region – missile-firing frigates, troop transport vessels and surveillance ships – are now using Panganiban Reef as their forward and supply base.

Aside from several radar domes, windmills power the Chinese naval posts.

One military communication expert also revealed that aside from conducting massive maritime monitoring to determine offshore and onshore activities of Wescom, the Chinese are also eavesdropping on telephone communications of senior military officials directly involved in maritime security in the region.

“This was the reason why nobody was allowed to call or text or post anything on social media when we launched our resupply and troop rotation operations at Ayungin Shoal last month,” the official said.

Since May last year, China has been trying to occupy Ayungin Shoal currently guarded by a Marine contingent aboard the grounded Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre. The Chinese have since deployed, on a regular basis, its surveillance ships around the shoal.