May 15, 2023
PAG-ASA ISLAND, West Philippine Sea — To strengthen the country’s maritime stakes in the West Philippine Sea following persistent Chinese incursions, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has installed additional navigational buoys within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Vice Adm. Joseph Coyme, commander of the PCG’s Task Force Kaligtasan sa Karagatan, flew over islands and reefs being claimed by the country on Saturday to inspect the new and previously installed Spanish-made markers equipped with a remote monitoring system.
“[They’re] not only for navigational safety for boats and ships but [they] also [serve] as sovereign markers. [They bear] the Philippine flag to boost our presence, as well as control and administration of these claimed areas,” Coyme said of the nearly 30-foot-long buoys weighing two tons each.
Five buoys were installed last week off the Philippine-occupied islands of Patag (Flat), Kota (Loaita), Panata (Lankiam Cay), and the fishing grounds of Balagtas (Irving) Reef and Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, where dozens of suspected Chinese militia vessels continue to swarm despite the government’s repeated protests. More markers
Last year, the PCG also placed buoys near Lawak (Nanshan), Likas (West York), Parola (Northeast Cay), and Pag-asa (Thitu) Island to mark the country’s claim to these islands.
Out of nine features the Philippines occupies in the Kalayaan Island Group, only Rizal (Commodore) Reef and Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal—one of the potential flashpoints in the West Philippine Sea—do not have installed buoys. Coyme said they would add six more markers within the year.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
During the PCG’s inspection flight on Saturday, several suspected Chinese militia vessels were spotted on Julian Felipe Reef and Iroquois Reef—both within the country’s EEZ.
There were also radio challenges from China, telling the Philippine plane to “leave immediately.”
An international arbitral tribunal ruled in 2016 to invalidate China’s claim to the South China Sea but it never recognized the ruling.
—WITH A REPORT FROM REUTERS