MANILA, Philippines — In light of continuing dispute in the West Philippine Sea amid the ongoing presence of Chinese vessels there, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Monday that it will be needing bigger boats to extend the scope of their sovereignty patrols.
“As of the moment, we have these smaller boats that are capable of patrolling up to the contiguous zone only, and that is 24 nautical miles from the archipelagic baselines. So hanggang doon lang po kami sa ngayon (we can only patrol up to that area only) because we have no bigger boats,” said PNP Maritime Group chief Brigadier General John Mitchell Jamili during a press briefing.
“That is why we have this wishlist to have bigger ships and also kung tutulong ‘yung PNP Maritime Group kung kinakailangan (if the PNP Maritime will help if needed), yes we are very willing to help in this endeavor,” he added, referring to the efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to protect islands and reefs or features in the West Philippine Sea.
Jamili said they are regularly conducting coastal patrol along the Ilocos, Central Luzon, and Mimaropa Regions, which are facing the disputed waters.
He also said they will deploy a unit at Pagasa Island to support the government forces currently posted there.
The Maritime Group chief further said they are also meeting regularly with the National Task Force West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS).
For his part, PNP chief Debold Sinas pledged the unwavering support of the national police force to AFP and the Philippine Navy.
“Unang-unang maitutulong natin, ay yung coastal patrol po. Kaya po ng maritime group natin ‘yang coastal patrol at makipagtulungan po kami,” Sinas said.
(The first thing we can help with is the coastal patrol. Our maritime group can handle the coastal patrol and we will work together with other agencies.)
“Tutulong kami sa intelligence gathering within the coastal area. At pangatlo, ay pagmomonitor ng mga lumalapit po sa mga lugar natin kasi ‘yun ang pinakauna natin at lahat po kami ay sumusuporta sa programa po ng AFP para po bantayan po ang mga islands po natin sa West Philippine Sea,” he added.
(We will help in the intelligence gathering within the coastal area. We will monitor forces entering our territory and all of us will support the AFP in their duty to protect our islands in the disputed waters.)
On April 14, the NTF-WPS reported that around 240 Chinese militia vessels remain moored within the Philippines’ territorial waters.
The Philippines has since then filed a string of diplomatic protests over the continued presence of the Chinese vessels near the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef.