More than 20 Chinese and Vietnamese vessels were spotted from March 16 to 21 in waters around Sabina and Ayungin Shoals, and Pag-asa Island in Palawan, the Philippine Coast Guard said Thursday.
In a statement, the PCG said it conducted a maritime patrol mission to the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) where several foreign-flagged vessels were sighted -- including China Coast Guard Vessels (CCGVs) and a People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) Type 056A Jiangdao II Class Missile Corvette.
“Off Sabina Shoal, BRP Malapascua monitored the presence of at least 20 Chinese and Vietnamese vessels,” the PCG said.
“The PCG vessel also encountered at least two CCGVs with bow numbers 5304 and 5305 near the shoal,” it added.
The PCG issued multiple radio challenges but got no response from the concerned vessels.
Rigid-hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) were deployed to disperse the foreign flagged vessels in and around the shoal, the PCG said.
“Off Pag-asa Island, BRP Malapascua encountered the PLAN vessel with bow number 649 within Pag-asa’s twelve nautical mile (12 NM) territorial waters,” the PCG said.
Likewise, the PCG vessel issued multiple radio challenges but the PLAN vessel responded with a counter radio challenge.
“Underway back to Buliluyan Port, Province of Palawan, while patrolling Ayungin Shoal, BRP Malapascua monitored the presence of CCGV 5201 and issued radio challenges to the latter,” the PCG said.
According to PCG, CCGV 5201 shadowed BRP Malapascua at approximately 1,600 yards.
During its encounter with CCGV 5201 at Ayungin Shoal, the PCG said the Chinese Coast Guard vessel came to as close as 1.2 nautical miles from the grounded Philippine Navy Vessel BRP Sierra Madre.
“Probably the China Coast Guard vessels are more conscious now in positioning themselves every time na sina-shadow nila tayo. Probably they are thinking that we are going to document once again itong ginagawa nilang harassment,” PCG adviser for Maritime Security, Commodore Jay Tarriela, said in an interview on “24 Oras.”
Aside from patrolling, PCG also distributes food packs to the Filipino fishermen they encounter along the West Philippine Sea, which is a big help for those who spend weeks fishing.—With Sherilyn Untalan/LBG, GMA Integrated News