PH increases security in disputed Spratlys

MARITIME authorities have beefed up security patrol in disputed chain of islands some 100 miles west of Palawan after an oil exploration vessel was harassed by two Chinese gunboats on Wednesday.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) dispatched two search-and-rescue (SAR) vessels to the area being disputed by at least five countries and put on standby another monitoring-control-surveillance vessel.

“These coast guard vessels are tasked to assist the government’s vessels on energy exploration project in duly specified areas well within Philippine waters,” PCG commandant, Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said in a statement.

These vessels, the BRP San Juan (SARV  001), Nueva Viscaya (SARV 3502) and the MCS, are tasked to conduct maritime patrols and assist vessels tapped by the energy department to conduct seismic survey within the area of Reed Bank.

The PCG commandant said that aside from the regular coast guard personnel, the said SAR vessels will also be augmented with Special Operations Group personnel and divers and a medical team.

Vice Admiral Alexander Pama, the Navy chief, said additional navy gunboats have also been dispatched to the Spratly area, locally known as Kalayaan Group of Islands, which is considered a municipality under Palawan province.

The additional Navy vessels will be placed under the control of the military’s Western Command (Westcom), which has operational and supervisory control over all military forces in the western part of the country, Pama said.

Westcom chief Lt. General Juancho Sabban said earlier that two Chinese gunboats twice tried to approach a Philippine vessel doing an exploration and was asked to immediately leave the area. Anthony Vargas

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