"We are trying to assess why they did such kind of formation, because they were lined up in layers - as if they were forming like a phalanx."
Earlier this month, more than 200 Chinese vessels have been spotted at the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef over at the West Philippine Sea. Filipino officials have since been observing the vessels, which are believed to be militia ships. According to latest reports, the ships are still in the location.
This eventually prompted Philippine Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana to issue a statement. “We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory,” he said.
China downplayed the accusations of incursion and said that the vessels were “fishing boats” that have just “taken shelter” during harsh sea conditions.
In a recent interview, Philippine Armed Forces Chief General Cirilito Sobejana remains skeptical about China’s real motives, especially because of the vessels’ military-style formation.
First off, Sobejana agreed that it is normal for fishing vessels to group together when they go to rest.” He was, however, quick to note that the “number is quite substantial.”
“So we are trying to assess why they did such kind of formation, because they were lined up in layers … as if they were forming like a phalanx. So we are trying to do some assessment on that kind of formation.”
According to the Britannica‘s definition, the phalanx formation consists “of a block of heavily armed infantry standing shoulder to shoulder in files several ranks deep.” This functions as both a defensive and offensive tactic.
“We do not tolerate incursions in our territorial waters from anybody. We stand or uphold our mandate,” added Sobejana.
Meanwhile, House Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez pointed out that the Chinese vessels made their presence off the province of Palawan a week after the arrival of the donated 600,000 coronavirus vaccine doses from China’s Sinovac.
“This sequence of events makes many of us wonder if there is a connection between the vaccine donation and China’s latest incursion in the West Philippine Sea, if we did not exchange marine resources for vaccine,” Rodriguez said.
The palace, on the other hand, has simply shrugged off the issue.
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