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Friday, February 16, 2024

On an island in the South China Sea, the Philippines built a New Coast Guard station

While some villagers on Thitu have become accustomed to the presence of Chinese ships at a distance, there remains an underlying fear of potential intrusions.

On an island in the South China Sea, the Philippines built a New Coast Guard station

The Philippines has recently bolstered its presence in the South China Sea by establishing a new coast guard station on Thitu Island, a contested territory. This move aims to enhance the country’s monitoring capabilities, specifically focusing on tracking the movements of Chinese vessels and aircraft in the disputed waters. The inauguration of the monitoring base on this remote island comes as part of Manila’s broader efforts to counter China’s increasingly assertive actions in this strategically vital region.

Tensions between Chinese and Philippine vessels have escalated throughout the year, culminating in minor but concerning collisions near the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in October. The frequency and intensity of these maritime confrontations have raised fears of a potential larger conflict, prompting repeated warnings from the United States about its commitment to defending the Philippines, its oldest treaty ally in Asia.

National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano, accompanied by other Philippine officials, visited Thitu Island to lead the opening ceremony of the newly constructed monitoring center. This two-story facility is equipped with radar, ship-tracking systems, and other advanced monitoring equipment. Ano, addressing reporters after the ceremony, characterized China’s actions as blatant bullying and a violation of international law.

Chinese ships observed

During the event, Ano observed at least 18 suspected Chinese militia ships, including a navy vessel, through a mounted telescope. While some villagers on Thitu have become accustomed to the presence of Chinese ships at a distance, there remains an underlying fear of potential intrusions.

More to read: China, Japan, and South Korea are set to meet

Despite conflicting territorial claims by several regional nations, Thitu remains Manila’s largest and strategically most important outpost in the South China Sea. Known locally as Pag-asa, it lies approximately 300 miles west of the Philippine province of Palawan and is home to around 200 people. The South China Sea, with competing claims from Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam, serves as a crucial conduit for goods exceeding $3 trillion annually.