Philippines deploys buoys as ‘sovereign markers’ in South China Sea – Eurasia Review

By JC Gotinga

The Philippines has set up buoys and opened command posts to demarcate and assert sovereignty over waters and islets it claims in the disputed South China Sea, the country’s coastguard chief said on Friday.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has installed five navigational buoys, each 30 feet long and bearing the national flag, near Lawak (Nanshan), Likas (West York), Parola (Northeast Cay) and Pag-asa (Thitu ) islands from May 12 to 14, Admiral Artemio Abu, commander of the service, told a local radio station.

Abu hailed “the resounding success of installing our Sovereign Markers”.

On May 17, he said, the Coast Guard also established new command observation posts on Lawak, Likas and Parola to bolster Manila’s “maritime domain awareness” in the South China Sea, which the Filipinos call the Western Philippine Sea, and is furrowed. massively by international ships. An estimated $5 trillion in international trade passes through the waterway each year.

Several Vietnamese and Chinese fishing boats, as well as Chinese coast guard vessels, he noted, have been spotted near the island of Pag-asa, the largest territory held by the Philippines which is home to a Filipino civil community.

“Vessels from Vietnam and China have shown respect for the mission we have undertaken,” Abu said, adding that the Philippine Coast Guard boats were ready to challenge foreign vessels in case they interfered with the mission. install navigation buoys and command posts.

In the past, Chinese Coast Guard ships have blocked Philippine vessels on resupply missions to outposts held by the Philippine Marines in disputed waters. In November 2021, CCG vessels fired water cannons at Filipino supply boats, which were en route to Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

Sourced from Spain, the buoys are fitted with “modern marine aids to navigation” including lanterns, specialist mooring systems and a satellite-based remote monitoring system capable of transmitting data to coastguard headquarters in Manila, Abu said.

The lack of this capability has been highlighted in recent years, when vessels from other claimant states in the maritime region, particularly China and Vietnam, have become increasingly present in Philippine-claimed waters. .

The new coast guard outposts “will enhance our capabilities to promote maritime security, maritime search and rescue and protection of the marine environment”, Abu said.

“These [outposts] optimize the strategic deployment of PCG assets by monitoring the movement of merchant vessels in surrounding waters and communicating maritime incidents to PCG national headquarters [in Manila].”

Separately, the head of the Philippine Human Rights Commission praised the Coast Guard for its actions in “asserting Philippine sovereignty over disputed territories where China has built artificial islands and interfered with fishing activities. philippines”.

“No state should deprive our Filipino fishermen of the opportunity to earn a living in our national territories. The installation of navigational buoys is a notice to the rest of the international community that the Philippines is asserting its sovereignty over the Kalayaan group of islands,” Jacqueline Ann de Guia, chairperson of the commission, said Friday.

In recent years, Chinese Coast Guard vessels and fishing trawlers have also blocked or restricted Filipino fishermen’s access to their traditional fishing grounds in the South China Sea, such as Scarborough Shoal and the waters around Pag- asa.

On Friday, embassies of China and other states with territorial claims at sea did not immediately respond to BenarNews’ requests for comment.

The Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam each have territorial claims in the South China Sea. Indonesia does not consider itself a party to territorial disputes, but claims the waters of the South China Sea off the Natuna Islands.

A 2016 ruling by a tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration upheld Manila’s sovereign rights to a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf, and declared Beijing’s sweeping claim to nearly all of the sea invalid under international law.

Beijing rejected the decision and proceeded to occupy the waters with its vast flotilla of government and fishing vessels. The international community has urged China to comply with the ruling, as other claimant states have made efforts to assert their rights and deploy more of their own vessels in disputed waters.

Marcos: On the way to China

The Coast Guard’s installation of the buoys and command observation posts came just days after the Philippine general election, in which Ferdinand Marcos Jr. won the presidential election in a landslide victory, according to a unofficial vote count.

On July 1, he will succeed President Rodrigo Duterte, who will leave office at the end of a six-year term limited by the Constitution, during which he cultivated warmer bilateral relations with China and was considered relatively lenient on the issue of territorial disputes.

The installations also took place the same week that Marcos had a “long” phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who congratulated him on winning the May 9 election.

“We talked about the way forward for China-Philippines relations,” Marcos said in a May 18 statement. “So it was very good, very substantial.”

Marcos, 64, is widely seen here as someone who would continue Duterte’s friendly policy toward Beijing on the maritime issue.

“I told him that in my opinion the way forward is to expand our relations, not only diplomatic, not only commercial, but also in culture, even in education, even in knowledge, even in health to settle any minor disagreements we have. right now,” Marcos said.

“And I told him that we must not let the conflicts or the difficulties that we currently have between our two countries become historically significant,” he said.

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