The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on Saturday that its maritime patrol in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) was “non-provocative” after a near-collision between a Chinese coast guard ship and a Philippine patrol vessel.
The PCG made the remark after China said the near-crash in the South China Sea between a Chinese coast guard ship and a Philippine patrol vessel carrying journalists was caused by the latter's "premeditated and provocative action.”
“The routine, seven-day maritime patrol carried out by the PCG in the WPS from April 18–24 was non-provocative and did not undermine the interests of other states,” Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for the WPS, said in a tweet.
Tarriela said the PCG has no obligation to request permission from other nations while patrolling the waters near Ayungin Shoal, adding that this area is within the country’s exclusive economic zone in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“Throughout their maritime patrol operations, PCG captains consistently follow the 1972 Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs),” he said.
“The recent perilous maneuver executed by the China Coast Guard against BRP Malapascua not only breached the 1982 UNCLOS, as China is not entitled to patrol other countries' EEZs, but also violated the 1972 COLREGs. The People's Republic of China is a signatory to both conventions,” he added.
The near-miss off the Spratly Islands on Sunday was the latest in a steady string of incidents between China and the Philippines in the contested waterway.
The incident happened after Philippine coast guard boats approached Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal), known in China as Ren'ai Jiao. As one boat neared the shoal, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel more than twice its size sailed into its path.
AFP journalists watched the incident from another Philippine coast guard boat, which was less than a kilometer away.
The Philippine captain said the Chinese ship came within 45 meters (50 yards) of his boat, and only his quick actions avoided the steel-hulled vessels crashing into each other.
The Department of Foreign Affairs also called on China to respect the legal rights of the country to conduct maritime patrols in the WPS.
Meanwhile, the PCG has reported that more than 100 Chinese vessels were spotted during the maritime patrols in the WPS.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has said that the Philippines will not give up an inch of its 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 nearly the entire South China Sea. The Philippines refers to portions of the South China Sea as the WPS.
China has refused to acknowledge the ruling. — VBL, GMA Integrated News