Over 100 Chinese vessels spotted in West Philippine Sea

MANILA. BRP Malapascua monitored 18 Chinese maritime militia vessels anchored off Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, said the Philippine Coast Guard. (Photo from PCG)
MANILA. BRP Malapascua monitored 18 Chinese maritime militia vessels anchored off Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, said the Philippine Coast Guard. (Photo from PCG)

MORE than 100 Chinese maritime militia (CMM) vessels, a People’s Liberation Army Navy corvette class and two China Coast Guard vessels were spotted during a one week maritime patrol in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page on Friday, April 28, 2023, the PCG said its personnel conducted the maritime patrols from April 18 to 24, 2023 in accordance with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s directive.

PCG Commander Admiral Artemio Abu ordered the deployment of two 44-meter vessels -- BRP Malapascua (MRRV-4402) and BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4403) -- to patrol the waters off Sabina Shoal, Iroquis Reef, Lawak, Patag, Likas, Parola, Pag-asa, Tizzard Bank, Julian Felipe Reef, and Ayungin Shoal.

“The PCG has already submitted a report to the National Task Force West Philippine Sea, highlighting the presence of a Chinese warship, the continued appearance of alleged CMM vessels within the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone, as well as the aggressive actions of the CCG (Chinese Coast Guard) against PCG vessels,” the PCG said of the sightings of Chinese vessels.

It added that near Sabina Shoal, 18 CMM vessels were detected, and despite the numerous radio challenges by the two PCG vessels, “the CMM did not respond or comply with the order to leave the area immediately.”

Four CMM vessels engaged in fishing activities were also sighted off Pag-asa but they were driven away by the PCG vessels.

In the vicinity of Julian Felipe Reef, 17 groups of CMM vessels, with an estimated total count of more than 100 vessels, were observed.

“In response, the PCG vessels deployed their Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats to disperse the large CMM gathering. However, no CMM vessels reacted or made any attempts to vacate the area,” the PCG said.

On April 21, a Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy vessel crossed paths with the PCG vessels. The confrontation reportedly took place at a distance of seven nautical miles from Pag-asa Island.

“The encounter began when the Chinese gray ship challenged the presence of the PCG vessels over the radio and directed them to leave the area. The Chinese navy issued a warning to the PCG, suggesting that failure to comply might ‘cause problem,’” the PCG said.

The PCG vessels, however, did not back down, as it asserted their rights to carry out operations within the territorial sea of Pag-asa. They asked the Chinese navy to leave the area immediately instead, said the PCG.

On April 23, two Chinese Coast Guard vessels intercepted the PCG vessels that were in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal.

“CCG vessel 5201 and 4202 exhibited aggressive tactics towards BRP Malapascua and BRP Malabrigo, respectively. CCG vessel 5201 was reported to have carried out dangerous maneuvers near BRP Malapascua, maintaining a perilous distance of only 50 yards. This close proximity posed a significant threat to the safety and security of the Philippine vessel and its crew. Meanwhile, the CCG vessel 4202 persistently followed BRP Malabrigo at a distance of 700 yards, closely monitoring its movements,” the statement added.

The PCG assured that it is dedicated, along with the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Area Task Force-West, to work together to protect the Philippines' exclusive sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone. (LMY)

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