MANILA - The country's navy chief said Tuesday there are several vessels currently under repair that will be deployed to the West Philippine Sea, in response to the directive of Armed Forces chief-of-staff General Cirilito Sobejana.
Vice Admiral Giovanni Bacordo said the Navy has never backed down from patrolling the West Philippine Sea and would continue to do so, with plans to increase not just the number of patrol sea craft but also the operational tempo of ships already there.
Shortly after his installation as AFP chief earlier February, Sobejana expressed concern over China's new law which authorizes its coast guard to fire at foreign vessels and tear down structures built by other countries.
Calling the mandate “alarming” and a threat to the safety of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea, Sobejana directed the Navy to send more sea craft to protect them.
The Philippines has lodged a diplomatic protest over the China coast guard law.
Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said meanwhile Chinese officials have sought to convince their Filipino counterparts that Beijing is "not targeting" the Philippines with the new law.
“The Chinese have reassured us... that they are not targeting the Philippines or any specific country, and that they will not resort to force,” said Sta. Romana.
The Philippines has maritime disputes with China, which aggressively asserts its claims over almost the entire West Philippine Sea, or internationally known as the South China Sea.
Despite a 2016 ruling of a UN-backed tribunal which invalidates Beijing's expansive claims to the resource-rich waters, China has aggressively expanded its claims there, building military bases and testing its missiles over the sea.