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China also used laser on Philippine ship in June 2022 —PCG exec

Before the February 6, 2023 incident, a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel also used a laser light on a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) tugboat in June last year, an official of the PCG said Tuesday.

“This is already the second time. The first time that we experienced the laser-pointing of the Chinese Coast Guard was June last year,” PCG adviser to the commandant for maritime security Commodore Jay Tarriela said at a televised public briefing.

“When the BRP Habagat, ito ay isang Coast Guard tugboat, ay tumutulong din ng [rotation and resupply] mission, ay natutukan, na-expose dito for almost 20 minutes,” he added.

Tarriela  said the CCG used a blue laser light in the June 2022 incident and green on the recent February 6 incident.

According to him, the PCG crew experienced temporary blindness and skin itchiness after the exposure to the laser light.

He said the PCG condemned these acts of the CCG.

On Monday, the PCG said a CCG ship on February 6 pointed a "military-grade" laser light at one of its vessels supporting a military rotation and resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal.

"As BRP MALAPASCUA reached a 10nm distance from Ayungin Shoal, the CCG vessel was monitored approximately 4nm of the ship's dead ahead maneuvering from the portside heading starboard side," the PCG said.

The Chinese ship then "illuminated the green laser light twice" toward the BRP Malapascua, the PCG said, adding that the light caused "temporary blindness" to BRP Malapascua's crew at the bridge.

"The Chinese vessel also made dangerous maneuvers by approaching about 150 yards from the vessel's starboard quarter," the PCG also said.

On Tuesday, the Philippines protested China’s use of military-grade laser, including dangerous maneuvers, against the PCG vessel.

China insists that the shoal, which it calls Ren'ai Reef, is part of China's Nansha Islands or what the Philippines refers to as Spratly Islands.

Defending its coast guard's action, Beijing accused the Philippine Coast Guard vessel of intruding into the waters off the Ren'ai Reef “without Chinese permission.” China virtually claims the South China Sea nearly in its entirety.

Under UNCLOS or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea where the Philippines and China are both signatories, the 200 nautical miles off the territorial sea of a country is its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In July 2016, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, based on a case filed by the Philippines, junked China's nine-dash line claim covering the entire South China Sea.

The arbitration court also ruled that Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank are all within the Philippines' EEZ as provided by the UNCLOS and outlawed China’s action of preventing Filipino fishermen to access Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.—LDF, GMA Integrated News