DFA probes new China harassment
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday said it was verifying reports that a Greek oil tanker manned by an all-Filipino crew was warned from passing near Scarborough Shoal by a Chinese warship which claimed that China had jurisdiction over the area.
“We will verify the facts of the incident then relevant offices will make the appropriate recommendations,” Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez, DFA spokesperson, said in a brief statement.
Told to change course
According to online news reports, the Greek-owned, Liberia-registered crude oil tanker Green Aura was heading to China from Thailand and was traversing the West Philippine Sea last Sept. 30, when it was warned by a Chinese warship from passing near the disputed shoal.
The Chinese warship repeatedly told the Filipino captain of the oil tanker to change course.
However, the Green Aura opted to maintain its course and came within about 11 kilometers from the shoal.
The Filipino captain was quoted as saying that when he asked on radio why he was being asked to change course, the Chinese warship cited safety reasons and invoked Chinese jurisdiction over the shoal’s waters.
He told the Chinese that the oil tanker was just making an innocent passage.
The captain, a reservist in the Philippine Navy, said that when he opted to maintain course, one of the Chinese ships moved to intercept the Green Aura and then tailed the oil tanker, in violation of navigation rules.
China has been in control of Scarborough, also called Panatag and Bajo de Masinloc by the Philippines, since 2012. It prohibited Filipino fishermen from entering the shoal.
An arbitral ruling in 2016 rejected China’s historical claims over Panatag and stated that both Chinese and Filipino fishermen have traditional fishing rights on the waters of the shoal.
China is laying claim to almost the entire South China Sea where it has built and fortified artificial islands.
Aside from China, other claimants include the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
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