Presence of military in West Philippine Sea is no cause for alarm: AFP
The presence of military forces in West Philippines Sea because of the just- concluded Balikatan exercises is not a cause for alarm.
“The presence is not really to agitate or anything else but purely for training so nobody should be alarmed of the presence of all those forces during the Balikatan,'' said Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, commander of Southern Luzon Command and the Philippine exercise co-director during the press conference after the closing ceremony of Balikatan 2019 in Camp Aguinaldo Friday.
Following the naval exercise conducted by US and Philippine Navy off the waters of Subic bay as part of this year’s Balikatan, China warned the US and other “non-regional forces” against stirring up trouble in the South China Sea.
Gapay noted “it is just so happened that this year there was an increase in participation of all nations.”
“Personnel increased by 30 percent, equipment used in this year’s balikatan increased by six percent,” he said.
Just recently, a military official confirmed it was the USS Wasp with the two Philippine Navy ships that were spotted near the Scarborough shoal at the West Philippine Sea.
US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, commanding general, III Marine Expeditionary Force, said people can always make their interpretation but he stressed the presence of USS Wasp with the US Marine Corps’ F-35B Lightning II aircraft in the West Philippine Sea is because of its involvement in the Balikatan exercises.
“The aircraft that I bring?the F35Bs?-those are my airplanes, that’s all I have. in a few years that will be the only airplanes I’ll have as the Marine Corps acquire our full complement of our F35Bs…I got terrific training from matching the aircraft with the Wasp on the sail down…,” he said.
“That’s just a great opportunity to train and we don’t waste training opportunities. People can interpret the Wasp presence as they wish but Wasp was here to take part in Balikatan and it was highly successful….,” he added. Robina Asido/DMS