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Upgrading outposts in PH territory

Manila Standard

Philippine officials said it quite distinctly.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself ordered this week the Armed Forces of the Philippines to “reconfigure” its approach in addressing, among others, the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue.

This means, according to AFP chief General Romeo Brawner, the Philippines will upgrade outposts it is occupying in the WPS, stressing the government is continually developing the facilities in the islands – Pag-asa (Thitu) and Lawak (Nanshan).

Pag-asa and Lawak are part of the Kalayaan Group of Islands within the country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in the WPS.

The Philippines has outposts on nine reefs and islands in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The Philippines would also acquire “more ships, more aircraft, radars,” according to Brawner, as part of a modest modernization program that began more than a decade ago.

China may react negatively to this, but we agree with Brawner the AFP is just taking care of Filipino soldiers and trying to improve their conditions and make the area habitable for them.

The Philippines has repeatedly called out China over its repeated aggression in the WPS that include the ramming and firing of water cannons at Philippine vessels.

Tensions between China and Philippines have heightened in recent months as both sides traded accusations over incidents in the WPS.

China claims most of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia.

In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration upheld the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile EEZ, and outlawed Chinese aggression in the common fishing ground of Scarborough Shoal.

It also rejected China’s expansive nine-dash-line claim of the entire South China Sea, a claim Beijing upgraded In October to ten-dash-line, which sparked outrage among China’s neighbors, who saw it as an attempt to legitimize Beijing’s sovereign claims over portions of their exclusive economic zones .

The nine-dash line already covers more than 90 percent of the SCS, but the new edition features an additional dash located east of Taiwan, seemingly extending China’s territorial claims in the region.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila had said the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling “violated the principle of state consent, exercised its jurisdiction ultra vires and rendered an award in disregard of the law.”

Further, China said its dispute with the Philippines in the WPS is “in essence a dispute of territorial sovereignty, which is beyond the scope of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and does not concern the interpretation or application of the UNCLOS.”

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