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Chinese navy ship, militia vessels spotted near Pag-asa Island - PCG

The Philippine Coast Guard said on Saturday it had spotted Chinese vessels, including a ship under China’s navy, near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.
Filipino coast guards stationed on the island reported the presence of a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy vessel, China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel 5203, and 42 suspected Chinese maritime militia (CMM) vessels.
“These Chinese vessels are estimated to have a distance of approximately 4.5 to 8 nautical miles from Pag-asa Island, clearly inside the land feature’s 12-nautical-mile territorial sea,” the PCG said in a statement.
The PCG said the PLA Navy vessel and CCG 5203 had been observed to be “slowly loitering” within the surrounding waters of the island, at a distance of eight and four nautical miles, respectively.
Fourteen suspected CMM vessels were anchored within the vicinity of Pag-asa Cay 3, with an estimated distance of four nautical miles west of Pag-asa Island, while the other 28 suspected CMM vessels were observed to be within the area of Pag-asa Cay 4.
“Their continuing unauthorized presence is clearly inconsistent with the right of innocent passage and a blatant violation of the Philippines' territorial integrity. The PCG, in compliance with the clear directive of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., will unceasingly carry out its patriotic duty in patrolling our waters in the West Philippine Sea,” the PCG said.
Pag-asa Island is the largest and the only civilian-inhabited island in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the West Philippine Sea. It is estimated that more than 400 civilians live on the island, along with stationed military, law enforcement, and government personnel.
For years, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan have been locked in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, a vital sea lane where oil and natural gas have been discovered.
Manila refers to parts of the South China Sea that are within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone as the West Philippine Sea.
In 2013, the Philippines challenged China’s legal basis for its vast claim in the South China Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands. Manila won the case in a landmark award in 2016 after the tribunal invalidated Beijing’s assertions.
China has ignored and belittled the ruling, maintaining an “indisputable” and “historical” claim over nearly the entire sea.  — VBL, GMA Integrated News