Solon wants forward naval bases in West Philippine Sea


Posted at May 23 2021 03:53 PM

Solon wants forward naval bases in West Philippine Sea 1
Members of the Philippine Coast Guard participate during a training on navigation, small boat operations, maintenance, and logistical operations in the West Philippine Sea in Palawan on April 24, 2021. Photo courtesy of the Philippine Coast Guard

MANILA - A lawmaker on Sunday urged government to construct naval “forward operating bases”(FOBs) in the West Philippine Sea amid the continuing incursions of Chinese vessels in Philippine waters.

These are secured outposts that can serve as a springboard for sustained remote operations, said Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairperson of the House strategic intelligence committee.

The Philippine Navy should put up FOBs in the towns of Balabac and Busuanga in Palawan and in Subic Ba,y and post its 2 lead warships there, according to Pimentel.

“We want the Philippine Navy positioned to prevent China from asserting administrative control over any reefs, rocks or lagoons within our 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone,” he said in a statement.

“We should avoid a repeat of the 2012 incident where China was able to occupy Bajo de Masinloc," he added, noting that the Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia blocked access to Bajo de Masinloc during the 2012 standoff.

Pimentel earlier said government should go ahead with its plan to acquire its first three submarines part of the Philippines' defensive combat ships.

“The attack submarines that our Navy intends to procure will be particularly helpful in protecting our maritime domain in the deeper waters of the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

“They can stealthily conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations against unwelcome Chinese maritime militia vessels."

The Philippine Navy plans to obtain three Scorpene-class submarines from France, according to Pimentel.

As of May 12, nearly 300 Chinese maritime militia vessels remain scattered in different areas in Kalayaan, Palawan, both within and outside the country's exclusive economic zone, according to the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea.

President Rodrigo Duterte said he would not withdraw Philippine ships from disputed waters after he drew flak over his remark that his campaign promise for fishermen in disputed seas was a joke. 

Duterte has pursued friendlier ties with China despite its repeated incursions in the West Philippine Sea, the country's EEZ in the South China Sea, in exchange for investments, infrastructure funding and most recently, vaccine supply. 

China's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea has no legal basis, a UN-backed arbitration court ruled in 2016.

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