PCG renews call for modernization as Chinese maritime vessels ‘loiter’ near Pag-asa Island

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 6) — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) appealed to lawmakers to pass its proposed modernization law, an official said Monday.

“In that proposed modernization law, we are expecting we can be able to procure more offshore patrol vessels, more aircraft and construction of more radar facilities,” PCG Spokesperson for West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said.

“We also need port facilities, we don’t have dedicated port facilities for the coast guard,” he added.

Tarriela did not provide information on the possible cost of the modernization program.

On March 4, the PCG monitored the presence of one Chinese Navy ship, one Chinese Coast Guard vessel, and some 42 suspected Chinese maritime militia vessels “loitering” near Pag-asa Island.

“They are within territorial sea of Pag-asa island. They cannot invoke right to innocent passage,” PCG Spokesperson for West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela told CNN Philippines.

“Those videos would show that they are loitering para ma-drift sila sa nearest shoreline,” Tarriela added.

[Translation: Those videos would show that they are only loitering so that they can drift to the nearest shoreline]

No fishing activities have been monitored so far, according to the PCG official.

Tarriela said the coast guard is monitoring the situation through their station in Pag-asa Island. He added that they have yet to approach the Chinese vessels.

“We have to scour a very vast West Philippine Sea so we are just being innovative to increase the maritime domain awareness. So, we are asking our personnel on the ground to check the situation. If ever the coast guard vessel will reach Pag-asa Island, I will assure you our coast guard vessel will challenge their presence and try to drive them as well,” Tarriela said.

He also disclosed that they have already submitted a report to the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea for appropriate diplomatic action.

Meanwhile, the local government of Kalayaan Island told CNN Philippines that they are no longer surprised by the report that Chinese maritime vessels are near the island, but they hope that there will be no escalation or confrontation from both sides.

“Sa aming part hindi ho mawawala ang takot, agam-agam, baka sakaling magkainitan ba kung may ganong sitwasyon,” Kalayaan Vice Mayor Billy Alindogan said.

[Translation: For our part, we hope that no confrontation will happen despite the tense situation.]