THE newly commissioned fixed-wing aircraft of the Philippine Navy has conducted its maiden Maritime Air Patrol over the disputed Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) in Masinloc, Zambales.

In a statement, the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) said the C90 plane with tail number 390 made its first flight around 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, January 31, for about 800 feet above sea level. The aircraft was donated by the Japanese government last year.

Nolcom said four Filipino fishing boats, five Chinese vessels and four Chinese Coast Guard vessels were sighted during the flight.

“The deployment of C90 plane to monitor the area in the famous shoal, located in the West Philippine Sea, will be its first military mission given by Nolcom,” it said.

“Its employment boosted the capability of the Navy to conduct limited airlift, reconnaissance and surveillance within the Area of Responsibility of Nolcom. It will also complement the efforts of the Philippine Air Force to monitor and watch over the three maritime areas in Northern and Central Luzon,” it added.

The Nolcom has vowed to protect the national territory including its northern maritime areas and assert the country’s sovereign rights over the maritime domain with the use of all their available assets.

Filipino fishers were reportedly harassed by the Chinese coast guard to keep them away from the Scarborough Shoal, which is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

China has been insisting that it has exclusive rights over the said area despite a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that the Philippines has the “sovereign” right to fish and explore the Scarborough shoal. (Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo/SunStar Philippines)