Philippines sends warplanes near disputed islands

2011-03-03 (China Military News cited from AP and written by JIM GOMEZ) — The Philippine military deployed two warplanes near the disputed South China Sea region after a local ship searching for oil complained it was harassed by two Chinese patrol boats, which later left without confrontation, officials said Thursday.

The incident happened Wednesday at the Reed Bank, which is near the disputed Spratly Islands that are claimed by the Philippines, China and other nations, said Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, who heads the military’s Western Command. Philippine officials said the Reed Bank is clearly within Philippine territory.

The Spratlys, a group of islands, reefs and atolls believed to be sitting stop vast oil and gas reserves, has been claimed in whole or in part by China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. It has long been regarded as a potential flash point for conflict in Asia.

Sabban said he deployed an OV-10 bomber plane and an Islander light aircraft to the Reed Bank to undertake surveillance after the Philippine ship radioed his command that two suspected Chinese patrol boats approached and ordered it to leave the area.

When the planes reached the area, the foreign vessels have left, he said.

“It’s clearly our territory,” Sabban told The Associated Press. “If they’ll bully us, well, even children will fight back.”

Chinese Embassy spokesman Ethan Sun declined to immediately react to Sabban’s statement.

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