MANILA — The Philippines' coast guard on Friday said it has established multiple outposts or Command Observation Posts (COPs) in the West Philippine Sea, amid tensions with China.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), in a Facebook post, said the outposts were put up on Likas Island, Lawak Island, and Parola Island last Tuesday, May 17, to expand the "maritime domain awareness" of the agency in the area.
"Through these COPs, we improve our capabilities in promoting maritime safety, maritime search and rescue, and marine environmental protection," PCG Commandant and CG Admiral Artemio Abu said.
The PCG earlier reported that a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel was closely sailing one of its ships in the disputed Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal. It later described the incident as a “close distance maneuvering” and triggered yet another diplomatic protest against China.
Beijing, however, stood firm on its claim on the Scarborough Shoal.
Earlier this year, a People's Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) vessel entered Philippine waters without permission from January 29 to February 1. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian claimed that it was an "exercise of the right of innocent passage."
Abu also said the PCG's Task Force Kaligtasan sa Karagatan had constructed a smart house and installed radio communications on the said islands "during the deployment of the largest Coast Guard contingent in the WPS."
"These COPs will optimize the strategic deployment of PCG assets by monitoring the movement of merchant ships in its surrounding waters and communicating maritime incidents to the PCG National Headquarters," he added.
China has been criticized for its aggressive assertion of its claims in the South China Sea, where the West Philippine Sea is located.
In 2016, the basis of Beijing's claims in almost the entire South China Sea was declared to have no legal basis by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
FROM THE ARCHIVES