MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Amid the reported presence of Chinese ships in disputed areas of the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has vowed to continue to “expose” the alleged aggression of China.

Previously, the PCG reported that its two ships were “constantly followed, harassed and obstructed” by China Coast Guard vessels during a resupply mission for the Philippine Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal last June 30.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Command (AFP-WESCOM) also revealed that it saw around 52 Chinese military and fishing boats around Del Pilar (Iroquois) Reef and Escoda (Sabina) Shoal.

PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela, who speaks for the government’s task force on the West Philippine Sea, said 48 of them were Chinese maritime militia vessels, three China Coast Guard ships and two vessels from the People’s Liberation Army-Navy of China.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry cried foul over the alleged “intrusion” of Philippine ships into what it called Ren’ai Reef.

“Our only analysis that we can provide for their presence is to swarm this particular feature and occupy it,” Tarriela said in an interview over radio dzBB last July 8.

He added that the area of Del Pilar Reef and Escoda Shoal, both found in the southern part of Recto (Reed) Bank, has “a lot of service contracts when it comes to oil exploration.”

At present, the PCG’s strategy was to “publicize Chinese aggression,” which Tarriela claimed the agency found “very effective.”

“It is a tool to make sure Chinese aggressive behavior and bullying activities will be criticized by the international community, so the Chinese government will be able to modify how they act in our waters in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Once exposed, the PCG and the AFP will be able to “drive away” the Chinese ships using military ships, he added.

The United States lashed out at the reported Chinese aggression at Ayungin Shoal last June 30, according to earlier reports.

Free trade

Meanwhile, the Italian government wants to maintain free navigation toward free trade in Indo-Pacific region, South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

At a press conference on the ITS Morosini, the newest high-tech ship of Italy, Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Marco Clemente said that one of the goals that the Italian-made ship’s visiting countries in Asia such as the Philippines is to promote stability in international seas like the West Philippine sea.

The ITS Morosini is docked at the South Harbor of Pier 15 to promote Italy’s bilateral relationship with the Philippines.

“One of the goals of these (activities) is to promote freedom of navigation. It is a crucial area for International trade. There are international laws and rules to be respected,” Clemente said.

He added that the Italian government is very much interested in the stability in the region.

“Italy wants to play a role. We are living in difficult times. As I said before, the geographic of the region is important,” Clemente said.

“The Indo-Pacific region is crucial, not only strategic. The main bulk of international trade goes through the region, free trade and stability of the economy. Peace and stability is a concern of all,” he added.

The Italian government is also promoting its shipping industry, according to the ambassador.

Morosini commanding officer Giovanni Monno said that the ship, characterized by high operational flexibility, is designed with enhanced dual use features to perform both military tasks including patrol, logistic transport and surface combat, as well as civil protection activities.