More than 100 Chinese vessels were spotted during the maritime patrols of Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) from April 18 to 24, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said Friday.
In a statement, Coast Guard spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said these vessels were Chinese Maritime Militia vessels, a People's Liberation Army Navy corvette, and two China Coast Guard vessels.
“The PCG has already submitted a report to the National Task Force West Philippine Sea (NTFWPS), highlighting the presence of a Chinese warship, the continued appearance of alleged CMM vessels within the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as well as the aggressive actions of the CCG against PCG vessels,” he said.
Near Sabina Shoal, eighteen Chinese Maritime Militia vessels were detected, Tarriela said. The Chinese vessels did not respond or comply with the PCG’s order to leave the area after many radio challenges.
The Philippine Coast Guard releases video of their personnel challenging several Chinese maritime militia vessels in Iroquois Reef and Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippines Sea last April 20 and 22. pic.twitter.com/XT6TO7TYL8— Raffy Tima (@raffytima) April 28, 2023
Around the territorial sea of Pag-asa Island, the PCG said four more Chinese Maritime Militia vessels, which appeared to be engaged in fishing activities, were driven away by Philippine vessels.
In the vicinity of Julian Felipe Reef, seventeen groups of over 100 Chinese Maritime Militia vessels were seen. The PCG deployed their Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats to disperse them. But the vessels did not leave.
On April 21, 2023, a Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLAN) Navy vessel with bow number 549 crossed paths with the PCG vessels at a distance of seven nautical miles from Pag-asa Island.
The Chinese gray ship over the radio directed the PCG vessel to leave the area or else it might cause a “problem,” Tarriela said.
On April 23, two Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels intercepted the PCG vessels in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal.
CCG vessel 5201 and 4202 exhibited “aggressive tactics” towards BRP Malapascua and BRP Malabrigo, respectively, according to Tarriela.
“CCG vessel 5201 was reported to have carried out dangerous maneuvers near BRP Malapascua, maintaining a perilous distance of only 50 yards. This close proximity posed a significant threat to the safety and security of the Philippine vessel and its crew,” Tarriela said.
The CCG vessel 4202 persistently followed BRP Malabrigo at a distance of 700 yards, closely monitoring its movements, Tarriela said.
GMA News Online has already reached out to the Chinese Embassy in Manila for its comment, but it has yet to respond as of posting time.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has been reiterating that the Philippines will not give up an inch of its territory including the WPS amid the reported aggression of China in the territory.
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 Philippines refers portions of the South China Sea as West Philippine Sea.
China has refused to acknowledge the ruling. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News