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PH tells China to respect its rights after near-crash in WPS

The Philippines on Friday called on China anew to respect the legal rights of the country to conduct maritime patrols after a Chinese coast guard ship cut a Philippine patrol vessel off the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The Department of Foreign Affairs thus said after the near-collision between the much bigger Chinese vessel and the Philippine boat.

"First of all, I would like to emphasize that the Philippines has the legal right to carry out routine maritime patrols in our territorial waters and EEZ. The deployment of the BRP Malabrigo and BRP Malapascua in the West Philippine Sea from April 18 to 24 was one such mission," DFA spokesperson Tess Daza said.

"The China Coast Guard’s interference with this routine patrol mission was totally inconsistent with freedom of navigation, and a number of documented incidents also involved highly dangerous maneuvers that were contrary to standard navigational practices," she added.

Daza said that on April 23, in waters around Ayungin Shoal, China Coast Guard vessel No. 5201 came within 50 yards of the BRP Malapascua, blocking the latter’s path and exposing the Philippine vessels’ crew to danger.

"Similar maneuvers were documented on April 19, involving CCG 5201 and 4202, and the BRP Malapascua while the latter was en route to Ayungin Shoal," Daza said.

"We again call on China to respect the Philippines’ rights over the West Philippine Sea, as provided by UNCLOS, and refrain from actions that may cause an untoward incident," she added.

The Philippine Coast Guard has reported that more than 100 Chinese vessels were spotted during the maritime patrols of Philippine vessels in WPS.

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 to portions of the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.

China said the near-collision was by the Philippine vessel's "premeditated and provocative action."

"It was a premeditated and provocative action for the Philippine vessel to barge into the waters of Ren'ai Jiao with journalists on board, the aim was to deliberately find fault and take the opportunity to hype up the incident," a foreign ministry spokeswoman said at a regular press briefing. —NB, GMA Integrated News