South China Sea "remains volatile" says AFP Chief of Staff
South China Sea situation “remains volatile,” says AFP Chief of Staff Gapay
MANILA – General Gilbert Gapay, the newly-promoted Chief of Staff of the 150,000-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines said the situation in the South China Sea “remains volatile and uncertain.”
Speaking on a virtual forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) late Tuesday morning, General Gapay attributed the volatility and uncertainty due to “certain actors such as China and the United States of America.”
He also mentioned the existence of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) established in 2007 with the United States, Japan, Australia and India.
General Gapay described China’s actions as “aggressive” which include the reclamation activities, the deployment of some warships in the South China Sea as well as the positioning of Coast Guard assets which remain visible as well as the crowding of maritime militia elements in the West Philippine Sea.
“And here comes the United States protecting their interests in maintaining the sea lanes open, safe and secure and advocating the freedom of navigation,” he said. He added Philippine interests in the area are affected by these developments.
“In response, we are maintaining our presence through naval and air patrols every day. We have seven navy assets and 20 aircraft alternately performing patrols in areas. We are also assisted by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to send message to other countries and allies that these are efforts to assert our sovereignty,” he explained.
He added they are building local monitoring stations, live support facilities and barracks to maintain presence in the area.
General Gapay who will head the Armed Forces of the Philippines until February 2021 when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56 added they want a peaceful approach in the resolution of issues in the West Philippine Sea.
“We have actions in coordination and cooperation with other claimant countries because we adopt the diplomatic approach of the national (government’s) strategy,” he added.
He added the AFP is also active in the crafting of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
“We even aired our desire to have it fast-tracked so if possible before the end of the year or early next year we can have the final draft,” General Gapay explained.
All the AFP’s efforts these days is “how to peacefully resolve the issues,” the country’s 54th Chief of Staff said.
“If there is diplomacy being undertaken by the DFA, we also have military diplomacy track,” he concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)