Maj. Gen. Reuben Basiao (photo from davaooriental.gov.ph)
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed that China has fired flare warnings at Philippine aircraft patrolling the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
During the organizational meeting of the House Committee on National Defense, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence Maj. Gen. Reuben Basiao said there have been times China fired flares as warning to Philippine forces patrolling the WPS.
“Recently Beijing has also issued flare warnings against Philippine aircraft covering these areas. and from January to June 2019 there have been 6 flare warnings against Philippine maritime patrols have been noticed,” Basiao said.
The military also spotted Chinese research ships in Philippine waters.
“Of significance is the presence of 17 Chinese research vessels within Philippine waters from January to June 2019. China has also been deploying its assets to hinder Philippine operations.”
The military noted China has been the most aggressive among the countries who have claims in the West Philippine Sea.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate challenges the military to secure the West Philippine Sea first instead of cracking down on progressive groups.
“Sinakop na nga ang teritoryo natin at nagpaputok pa laban sa AFP tapos ay hindi man lang kumikibo ang administrasyong Duterte. Sa halip, ang pinagdidiskitahan ngayon ay ang mga progresibo at ang mga kritiko nila”
On Twitter, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he would rather verify the information first before filing a protest.
Malacañang backs Locsin’s position but Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that if proven true, the flare warnings may be considered provocative.
Panelo maintained claimants should not worsen tensions in the area as they have all agreed to exercise restraint.
Recently, a Chinese warship also reportedly harassed Filipino manned Greek owned oil tanker transiting through the waters while en route from Thailand to China. (Jasper Camilo)