MANILA, Philippines - Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa said they are not concerned with China’s move to make its presence more felt in the South China Sea, where the disputed Spratly Islands is situated.
He said they “have no problem” with China’s move to conduct combat-ready patrols there for as long as “they stay at the freedom of navigation (area).”
He said if combat-ready patrols are just “transit areas for ships, there is no problem with that.”
Chinese defense ministry spokesman Geng Tansheng earlier said these patrols are being conducted to defend China's territorial sovereignty in the disputed areas.
Meanwhile, Dellosa said he does not see the need to send back Navy ships at Panatag Shoal off Zambales.
He said the military already wants a de-escalation of the standoff there, which has been oft-repeated by Malacanang.
The standoff started April 10. Philippine vessels moved out during the onslaught of a typhoon.
Until now, Malacañang is still assessing whether there is a need to re-deploy ships there.
Dellosa said he will not be recommending redeployment. "No. Actually, it is up to the government, they will decide on this matter. What they said last time was they are studying so let's just wait."
He also said there is no need to involve the Philippine Navy. "No. We are just waiting for instruction if there is. As of now, there is none. We don't want to escalate the situation."
He said the pull-out of the Navy vessels actually helped de-escalate the situation.
Last week, Navy chief Vice Adm. Alexander Pama said there were more than 20 Chinese vessels sighted inside and outside the lagoon in Panatag Shoal.