Philippines and Malaysia bemoan Chinese presence in disputed sea

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Malaysia and the Philippines on Wednesday decried continued incursions by Chinese vessels in areas of the South China Sea they claim as their own in yet another sign of continuing tensions in the disputed waters.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said it protested provocative actions by Chinese government vessels that used “the unlawful issuance of over 200 radio challenges, sounding of sirens, and blowing of horns” against Philippine authorities that were “conducting legitimate, customary and routine patrols.”

“These provocative acts threaten the peace, good order, and security of the South China Sea and run contrary to China’s obligations under international law,” the agency said on its official Twitter account.

Tensions between the two nations over the disputed sea have escalated over the past months with the Philippines repeatedly protesting the presence of Chinese ships in the area. Manila has been backed by the US, while Beijing has said its actions were normal and legitimate.

Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah warned separately on Wednesday during an event that his country could see more Chinese ships in its maritime territory so long as state-owned Petronas continues developing the Kasawari gas field located within its exclusive economic zone off the coast of Sarawak.

Malaysia earlier this month summoned the Chinese ambassador for the second time this year to protest the presence of ships in its territorial waters. Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob previously warned there were be no compromises if there’s a threat in South China Sea.

“I have lost count the number of protest notes we have sent to China,” Saifuddin said. “We will be steadfast and continue to respond diplomatically to them.”

AFP’s sea, air and land exercise

The military officially opened on Thursday the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Joint Exercise (AJEX) “DAGIT-PA,” its longest and biggest annual local exercise involving its forces.

The DAGIT-PA, which stands for “Dagat-Langit-Lupa” seeks to further train and enhance the military’s land, air and maritime assets, including personnel in joint interoperability operations.

Most of this year’s trainings will be held from November 4 to 18 in the areas under the jurisdiction of the Visayas Command where the exercise was opened and at the AFP General Headquarters.

The exercises, which will be participated by 1,533 personnel and 71 reservists,  will include Air Detection and Interception, Live Fire Exercise, Urban Operations, Maritime Operations, Amphibious Operations, Cyber Defense Exercise, Territorial Defense, Internal Security Operations, among others.

Joining the trainings are the Philippine Army’s Light Armored Vehicles, and Howitzers; Philippine Navy’s frigate, patrol ship, landing dock, naval helicopters and fixed wing aircraft; Philippine Air Force’s FA-50PH, SF-260 Hermes 900, Black Hawk helicopters, Philippine Marines’ Amphibious Assault Vehicles, and M35 and KM450 trucks.

All face-to-face activities during AJEX DAGIT-PA will be carried out with strict adherence to health protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Participants will undergo testing and shall be authorized by medical professionals prior to the start of the trainings.

“Continuous military education and trainings are indispensable to the AFP. It is through the conduct of training exercises such as AJEX DAGIT-PA that we can truly guarantee our troops’ competencies and capabilities are enhanced and optimized in order for them to promptly respond to a wide spectrum of combat and non-combat requirements,” said military overall commander and AFP Chief of Staff General Jose Faustino.

Meanwhile, the Navy will host the two-day 17th Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) next week themed “Effective Ocean Governance for Regional Partnership and Stability.”

20 WPNS members and 8 WPNS observers represented by their chiefs of navies or designated representatives from countries within and bordering the Pacific Region will attend the virtual conference chaired by Navy Chief Vice Admiral Adeluis Bordado.   

The WPNS is a series of biennial meetings of the Pacific nations. The Philippines was supposed to host its 17th iteration in May last year but was put on hold due to the pandemic.

“The PN’s (Philippine Navy) hosting of this international symposium demonstrates its commitment to peace and diplomatic measures that strengthen relationships with neighboring and other countries. Promoting a peaceful Western Pacific paves the way for the equitable and just use of our oceans, thereby propelling sustainable and inclusive development,” Navy spokesman Cdr. Benjo Negranza said.

Image courtesy of Blooberg/Getty Images

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