MANILA - Newly-installed Navy Flag Officer-in-Command Rear Admiral Giovanni Bacordo on Monday vowed to continue defending Philippine interests in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
"We will continue to establish Navy presence in the West Philippine Sea. We will continue to maintain the 9 occupied features in the West Philippine Sea. We will continue to replenish and rotate our personnel in the West Philippine Sea,” Bacordo said in his first interview as the Navy’s top commander.
“At all times, we will show the flag in the West Philippine Sea,” Bacordo said.
The West Philippine Sea is the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety. The Chinese have stepped up militarization and island building in the resource-rich waters despite unresolved disputes.
Before becoming Navy chief, Bacordo was commander of the Philippine fleet tasked “to prepare and operate assigned forces for naval operations in order to support the Philippine Navy in accomplishing its mission.”
He was also the operations chief of the Navy, planning and executing responses to crises such as China's blockade of the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in 2014 and tensions in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea in 2012.
- Report from Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News