Says it has fulfilled part of plan to expand sea power to challenge other powers in the region
The Philippines navy has completed a resupply mission to conduct maintenance on a warship that was impounded after it entered a disputed region on a logistics exercise with China, a spokesman said on Wednesday.
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The Chinese navy, which began the blockade when the P-3 Orion reconnaissance plane flew over the Scarborough Shoal in October, had held up the Philippine aircraft and tug boats, ending the transit on Sunday.
The transport ship, part of an expanded navy base under construction, has now been refuelled and sent on to the Southern Philippines, the navy spokesman, Lieutenant Nathan Renata, said.
“This portion of the resupply mission has been successfully concluded,” Renata said in a statement, adding that the typhoon Haiyan that hit the central Philippines had been a factor.
“More importantly, the repositioning of our logistics forces from several planned deployments to the Western Pacific can be seen as an exercise in resuming Filipino maritime force posture to challenge other powers in the region,” he said.
The standoff with China is only the latest of a series of disputes between Beijing and Manila and other regional powers over the overlapping sea claims of China and several South-east Asian nations, including the Philippines.
Renata said the southern Philippines had been the first area covered by the Philippines’ 4-billion-peso (£60m) modernisation project aimed at securing defence against “those from ‘over there’”.
There were no reports of clashes in the South China Sea over the weekend, which included the annual Rim of the Pacific exercises that involve ships and aircraft from the US, Japan, Australia, France, Britain and 10 other nations.
A Reuters photographer at a meeting in Guam between leaders of Australia, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, the United States and Canada on Saturday saw the three allies display a photograph of the northern Philippines taken during the search for a US airman killed by an enemy aircraft in the 1970s.
In a short statement on Tuesday, the UN’s cultural agency, Unesco, urged the global fleet to stay focused on the mission of strengthening global maritime security, citing urgent threats to World Heritage sites and the global shipping industry.
A US navy officer, who requested anonymity, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that a breakdown in communications with the Chinese navy over the aircraft had started when China erroneously told it to divert from the South China Sea to a humanitarian concern in the Philippines, but that the wrong person had been commando trained as to what was needed.