By Philippines Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network
Maj-General Reuben Basiao, deputy chief of staff for intelligence of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), told lawmakers at a security briefing at the House of Representatives that the flares, which originated from China-held military outposts, were meant to warn Filipino pilots to stay away from the disputed waters.
“China has been deploying its assets to hinder Filipino operations – both patrols and rotation and reprovision missions – in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
China issued the warning flares against Philippine military aircraft flying over the disputed waters six times in February, based on an AFP report on the West Philippine Sea situation for the first semester.
Beijing claims most of the South China Sea based on its mythical nine-dash line, which had already been rejected by an international court in 2016. Its claims included territories also being claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei.
It has turned reefs and islands into military outposts, deployed warships and maritime militia to reinforce its territorial claims in the contested waterway.
Basiao said that China is seen as “the most aggressive” among the claimants in the South China Sea. The West Philippine Sea refers to the portion claimed by the Philippines.
Chinese vessels reach the eastern seaboard
The senior military official also expressed concern on the extent of China’s operations reaching the eastern seaboard of the Philippines.
The military has monitored 17 Chinese research vessels within the eastern portion of the Philippine waters from January to June this year, Basiao said.
The Philippines had earlier filed protests on the unannounced presence of Chinese research vessels in its exclusive economic zone.