Wescom says Chinese warship readied guns vs PH Navy ship in PH territory
MANILA, Philippines—A warship of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) readied its guns for firing at a Philippine Navy ship near the Philippine-occupied Rizal (Commodore) Reef in the West Philippine Sea last February, according to a ranking Philippine military official on Thursday (April 23).
The Philippine Navy ship, BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), was on a sovereignty patrol mission when it encountered the Chinese corvette, with bow No. 514, on Feb. 17, said Vice Admiral Rene Medina, Western Command (Wescom) chief.
The Philippine ship radioed the Chinese vessel and got this response: “The Chinese government has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea, its islands and its adjacent waters.”
The Chinese vessel received another radio contact from the Philippine ship, instructing the Chinese ship to proceed directly to its next destination, Medina said. The Chinese vessel, however, repeated its response and maintained its course and speed.
Medina said the crew of the BRP Conrado Yap “visually observed” that the Chinese ship’s gun-firing mechanism was being aimed at the Philippine Navy vessel.
Medina described it as a “gun control director.”
“This gun control director can be used to designate and track targets and make all the main guns ready to fire in under a second,” he said.
Although according to the Joint Task Force West, the BRP Conrado Yap does not have electronic means, called electronic support measures or ESM, to confirm that the Chinese vessel’s gun control director was readying guns for aiming and firing at the Philippine Navy ship, “the visual identification confirms this hostile intent.”
The Philippine Navy has previously tagged the BRP Conrado Yap as its “most powerful warship” to date.
The BRP Conrado Yap is a Pohang-class corvette donated by South Korea which entered service in the Philippine Navy only last year.
On the West Philippine Sea incident, the Chinese and Philippine vessels went on their respective voyages after the encounter. The Wescom reported it to higher authorities.
“This hostile act on the part of Chinese government and encroachment in the Philippines’ EEZ [exclusive economic zone] is perceived as a clear violation of international law and Philippine sovereignty,” Medina said.
He vowed that the Wescom, the military unit mainly in charge of the West Philippine Sea, would continue to protect Philippine sovereignty.
Medina said Wescom “will never be intimidated nor will we let our guards down in protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the Philippines.”
He said his unit “will support any future capability upgrade of our ships patrolling our Philippine waters.”
The incident was one of the basis of two diplomatic protests filed by the Philippine government against Beijing on Wednesday (April 22).
The other basis of the diplomatic protest was China’s declaration of a section of the Philippine-claimed territory in the West Philippine Sea as part of Hainan province.
China recently announced that it had established two administrative units, akin to local governments, in the South China Sea as part of its latest move to establish full control of the disputed waters.
The actions were “both violations of international law and Philippine sovereignty,” said Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
The 2016 decision by the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in the Hague ruled that Beijing’s claims have no basis and its South China Sea construction frenzy was illegal.
China in recent years had transformed reefs and islands into outposts fitted and equipped with harbors, airstrips, missile shelters, communications facilities which expanded its ability to monitor its and rivals’ activities in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims to almost entirely own.
The protest filed by the Philippines came as China has started using the coronavirus crisis for diplomacy by donating supplies and medical equipment.
Edited by TSB
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