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Wescom confirms China’s ‘harassment’ vs. Philippine Navy vessel in February

The commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (Wescom) on Thursday confirmed the pointing of a radar gun at a Philippine Navy vessel by a Chinese ship in February this year.

Citing information from the report of Joint Task Force West and the commanding officer of BRP Conrado Yap (PS39), Wescom chief Vice Admiral Rene Medina said PS39 left Puerto Princesa City pier on February 15 to conduct territorial defense operations as well as sovereignty patrol at Malampaya Natural Gas to Power Project and at the Kalayaan Island Group in the West Philippine Sea.

Medina said on February 17, PS39 detected a radar contact of a gray vessel when it was on its way to Rizal Reef Detachment.

The Philippine Navy vessel was the first one that issued radio challenge on the foreign vessel, which was later identified as a PLAN (People's Liberation Army Navy) Corvette warship bearing bow number 514.

Medina said the PLAN vessel responded to the radio challenge of the PS39 with this: "The Chinese government has imputable sovereignty over the South China Sea, its islands and its adjacent waters."

Following this, PS39 challenged the vessel again and instructed to proceed directly to its next destination. The Chinese warship just repeated its response.

The PS39 also noticed that the gun control director, an equipment that gives information in obtaining a fire control solution of said PLAN vessel, was pointed at them.

Medina said the gun control director could be utilized to designate and track targets and "make all the main guns ready to fire in under a second."

Medina said while the PS39 has no electronic support measures to verify that the PLAN gun control director was pointed towards the Philppine Navy vessel, its visual identification had confirmed the "hostile intent."

"This hostile act on the part of Chinese government and encroachment within the Philippines’ EEZ is perceived as a clear violation of international law and Philippine sovereignty," Medina said.

"Nevertheless, both vessels continued their respective voyage after that incident. Wescom has reported this incident to higher headquarters," he added.

Medina assured the public that Wescom would continue to defend the country's territorial sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. bared that the Philippine government has lodged two diplomatic protests against China over supposed violations of international law and Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

"At 5:17 pm today the Chinese embassy received 2 diplomatic protests: 1. on the pointing of a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in PH waters & 2. declaring parts of Philippine territory as part of Hainan province—both violations of international law & Philippine sovereignty," Locsin said.

China claims the entire South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines refers to as West Philippine Sea. The Permanent Court of Arbitration tribunal in The Hague invalidated China's claim on July 12, 2016 following a case filed by the Philippines in 2013.

The Asian superpower has been setting aside the ruling. — RSJ, GMA News