MANILA - As many as 10 to 12 Chinese government and military vessels are patrolling the West Philippine Sea including areas claimed by the Philippines as part of its territory, the Philippine Air Force revealed Wednesday.
Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado, the Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force, said this is among the information that the Air Force regularly provides the rest of the Armed Forces, as they monitor and plan out their next moves in the disputed waters.
"There are times that they number - in the whole of the West Philippine Sea - ten to twelve. But it also trickles down to three or four," he said.
Delgado said the Air Force's role in the territorial defense of the West Philippine Sea is to provide the necessary air intelligence.
"We provide the information necessary as far as patrols are concerned - what things we see from above as we conduct air patrols," he said.
He said the Air Force conducts daily maritime patrols above the West Philippine Sea. He said photographs of reclamation activities by China is part of the output they provide to the national government.
The Air Force is now focusing on Bajo de Masinloc near Zambales, and Ayungin Shoal in Palawan "because these are the areas with pictures of new activities being done by other countries."
Delgado said each significant update is immediately forwarded to AFP headquarters, the Department of National Defense, and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The Air Force declined to say definitively what they think China could be doing with the various reclamation moves in the West Philippine Sea.
Major General Edgar Fallorine, Chief of Air Staff, said there is definitely an increase in the intensity of activity being carried out by China.
"They are trying to improve on their presence. They were just having structures before. Ngayon, they are improving," he said.
Delgado said the Air Force has now shifted its focus significantly on territorial defense of the West Philippine Sea.
"Nandun ang prioritiy natin for the meantime. The initial phase is focused on the west (of the Philippines), and then we shift to the east," he said.
He said preparations include not just the acquisition of air assets, but also the installation of radars on locations to be determined, and the training of personnel who will be operating the new air assets once they arrive.
"Perhaps we need to downsize some of our organizations so we can get the necessary personnel, redistribute them to other organizations na maga-accept ng air assets."
The Philippine Air Force chief was realistic in admitting that Chinese military assets are superior to that of the Philippines.
"Even in the next five years, we cannot match their air assets,' he said.
He said the Air Force is expecting new assets to arrive within the next few months.
Starting January of 2015, the Air Force will receive the first units of 8 brand new Augusta 109 attack helicopters, similar to those already acquired by the Philippine Navy and deployed to Palawan. The PAF will also receive 3 medium lift aircraft, 2 light lift aircraft, and 21 new UH-1H helicopters.
But while the West Philippine Sea is the current focus, Delgado said they will not be abandoning the Air Force's need in terms of internal defense.