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AFP: China vessel's recent dangerous move an elevation of aggressive actions

The recent dangerous maneuver of a Chinese vessel against a Philippine ship was an “elevation” of China’s aggressive actions, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Tuesday.

AFP Spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar said that the October 13 incident was the first time a Chinese vessel tried to cross the bow of a Philippine Navy ship.

“The report says that there were instances of harassment this particular way, shadowing operations,” Aguilar said in an interview on CNN Philippines.

“But this is the first time that they tried to cross the bow of our naval vessel which is LS507 which is a kind of elevation of their activities as far as [rotation and reprovisioning] missions in Rizal Reef are concerned,” he added.

The BRP Benguet (LS507) sent consecutive radio challenges to China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy Ship 621 for conducting "dangerous maneuvers" off Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.

According to the AFP, the Chinese Navy ship was shadowing the Philippine Navy vessel at an 80-yard distance.

It also tried to cross the Philippine ship’s bow, with a closest point of approach (CPA) of 350 yards at 5.8 nautical miles southwest of Pag-asa Island.

Aguilar said China’s move was irresponsible, unprofessional, and violative of conventions as it may cause an accident that will endanger people's lives.

“This is something new because this could be an elevation of what they have been doing before because there was shadowing before already,” he said.

The Philippine crew cited the Chinese vessel's violation of Collision Regulations (COLREG) in its radio challenges. The Chinese crew responded by citing its "ten-dash line" narrative.

The ten-dash line refers to a new map China had issued that shows its claims over nearly the entirety of the South China Sea, Taiwan, and a state in India.

China on Monday claimed sovereignty over Pag-asa Island and defended its presence near it following the incident.

"The Philippine side's illegal occupation of Zhongye Island has seriously violated China's sovereignty," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in a regular press conference using the Chinese name for Pag-asa Island.

"It is reasonable and lawful for Chinese warships to patrol the waters near Zhongye Island," the Chinese official added.

Pinoy fishers

Meanwhile, Filipino fishermen operating near Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea have also accused China Coast Guard (CCG) of shadowing, blocking and driving them away from the area.

According to the fishermen, a CCG pumping boat blocked a Filipino boat, St. Jude, from entering Ayungin Shoal last month.

St. Jude was supposed to deliver supplies to smaller boats fishing inside the shoal. It was escorted by other Filipino boats to the area.

The Filipino fishermen said Chinese personnel onboard the pump boat approached the Filipinos and took videos and pictures of them. They also asked the Filipinos about their purpose in the area and tried to drive them away.

"Nagtanong sila, kung na-gaano kami dito. Sabi ng kasamahan namin, fishing only daw (They asked us what we were doing there, we told them we’re just fishing," Jonjon Abordonado, one of the fishermen, said.

Abordonado said he felt slighted when asked by the Chinese.

"Bakit ganun, parang sa kanila pa itong lugar na ito? Sa atin pa man itong lugar na ito, kuya? Eh sabi kaya nga eh, 'yaan na lang natin (Why do they act like they own the area? This is ours isn’t it? I asked my fellow fisherman. He said, yes but let's just let it slide)" he said.

Ayungin Shoal, known internationally as Second Thomas Shoal, sits just 194 kilometers off Palawan province and is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone ((EEZ). It is where the BRP Sierra Madre is anchored since 1999.— with Joseph Morong/DVM/KBK, GMA Integrated News