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Coast Guard seeks US, Japan aid on laser use amid sea harassment

The Philippine Coast Guard on Thursday said it is reaching out to the United States and Japan to come up with procedures for dealing with harassment on its ships using laser technology while admitting it had no immediate capability of deploying lasers to aid its patrol of the country’s seas.

The PCG is including the use of laser technology in its rules of use of force, but still needs the approval of the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea, Coast Guard spokesman Commodore Jay Tarriela said in a television interview.

In a Laging Handa briefing on Thursday, Tarriela also said they had no plans of using laser technology “as part of our weaponry for Philippine Coast Guard vessels.”

This came three days after the spokesman revealed the PCG’s plans – in the wake of the February 6 laser-pointing incident in Ayungin Shoal involving the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) — in an interview with CNN,

These plans include joint patrols with the United States Coast Guard in the WPS to counter Chinese aggression in the waterway and support freedom of navigation in the contested South China Sea.

“We maintain our response to evade or maneuver. The only thing that is new right here is the use of laser technology, which is supposedly included in the rules of use of force,” Tarriela told CNN.

“To be honest, the use of laser technology – we still don’t have that kind of capability in the PCG. That is why we are reaching out to the US and Japan as to how we will be able to come up with procedures for this kind of harassment,” he added.

In the public briefing, Tarriela added: “What we are saying is for us to revise our rules for the use of force, where it’s still not indicated how the Philippine Coast Guard would respond to these kinds of threats towards (our) vessels,” he said.

“Definitely, the PCG is not considering putting laser weaponry onboard our Coast Guard vessels,” he added.

Tarriela’s statement came after the laser-flashing incident in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) earlier this month that the crew of the PCG’s BRP Malapascua said left them temporarily blind.

The continued presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea, the country’s exclusive economic zone in the disputed South China Sea, also remains an issue.

The PCG official said around 30 Chinese vessels are still moored in the West Philippine Sea as of Wednesday — 26 in Escoda (Sabina) Shoal and four in Ayungin Shoal.

To counter their presence, Tarriela said they are intensifying their patrols in the areas by deploying one offshore patrol vessel and 144 MRRV vessels.

The Philippines last week protested the Chinese vessel’s use of military-grade lasers, a claim Beijing denied.

China and the Philippines are at odds over the South China Sea, with Beijing claiming sovereignty over almost the entire area despite an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of the sea.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Saturday said he will not invoke the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty that allows Washington to aid Manila even if the laser-pointing incident happened.

 

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