MANILA, Philippines — Apart from last week’s patrol of the Philippine Rise, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has renewed its surveillance patrols in Panatag or Scarborough Shoal the West Philippine Sea.
The PCG yesterday also deployed an aerial patrol over Kalayaan Island, particularly in the vicinity of Pagasa Island.
PCG spokesman Captain Armand Balilo said their Islander plane left Puerto Princesa City in Palawan and flew over Kalayaan Island.
“We dispatched one of our Islander planes to the West Philippine Sea in compliance with President Duterte’s instructions to make our presence felt in the territory, including Pagasa Island,” Balilo said.
“We sent our plane to the Kalayaan Group of Islands for maritime domain awareness. We were just conducting regular surveillance in the area,” he added.
Balilo said there was some apprehension in the aerial patrol in the area on the possibility that it would be challenged by Chinese forces. China has built a fortified fortress in the Kagitingan Reef, which is also called Fiery Cross Reef, located nearby Kalayaan.
“Based on the report of our pilot China did not challenge our presence… This is a sign that the Philippine relationship with China has improved,” Balilo said.
There had been instances when China, upon seeing their Islander plane, would send radio messages or fire flares.
But yesterday morning, Balilo said Chinese forces did not show any sign of protest.
The last time the PCG conducted an aerial surveillance in the area was the middle of last year.
In the coming days, the Coast Guard’s Islander plane would also be conducing a maritime domain awareness aerial patrol over Bajo de Masinloc, which China claims to be part of its nine-dash line territory.
“We would also check Bajo de Masinloc in the coming days. We might send the Islander plane,” Balilo said.
Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough and Panatag Shoal, is located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales and within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
Last Saturday, a PCG Islander plane and BRP Suluan were dispatched to the Philippine Rise.
The presence of the PCG at Philippine Rise comes at a time when a Chinese research ship was reportedly spotted in the area, and that in 2004 China managed to name five features of the underwater plateau after an unauthorized research trip.
President Duterte then ordered all foreigners intending to conduct research at the Philippine Rise to first secure approval from the national security adviser.
Philippine Rise, formerly Benham Rise, has generated much interest because scientific surveys indicate the presence of minerals and natural gas in the area. Solidified methane was reportedly found during the mapping activities and there are massive oil deposits.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) also highlighted the Philippine Rise as a major food source because it has a rich and diverse ecosystem that attracts migratory commercial fish like tuna, marlin and mackerel.
Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/03/09/1795051/pcg-resumes-surveillance-patrols-scarborough#XzHTbRlqi4jf4QWr.99