Philippines sets up new South China Sea coast guard station

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows the Philippine-occupied Thitu Island, locally known as Pag-asa, in the contested Spratly Islands, South China Sea, March 9, 2023. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo

The Philippines has recently built a new coast guard station on Thitu, a disputed island in the South China Sea. This development enhances the country’s capacity to monitor the movements of Chinese vessels and aircraft in the contested waters. Heightened tension over territorial disputes led the Philippine coast guard to observe a Chinese navy ship and numerous militia vessels near Thitu earlier this year.

The newly inaugurated three-story facility, equipped with advanced technology like radar, automatic identification, satellite communication, and coastal cameras, aims to bolster the monitoring capabilities, as stated by the Philippine coast guard.

Eduardo Ano, the Philippine national security adviser, expressed concerns about the unpredictable behavior of the Chinese coast guard, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, and Chinese militias, emphasizing their disregard for the international order and rule of law. He denounced what is referred to as “gray-zone tactics,” labeling them as pure bullying and illegal actions that defy international norms.

Thitu, also known as Pag-asa locally, is a crucial outpost for Manila in the South China Sea, positioned about 300 miles west of the Philippine province of Palawan. Despite conflicting territorial claims by various regional nations, including Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam, Thitu serves as a significant location for the Philippines to assert its territorial claim in the region.

The South China Sea, a vital conduit for trade exceeding $3 trillion annually, remains a hotspot for competing sovereignty claims. The Chinese embassy in Manila has yet to respond to inquiries regarding these developments.

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