PH Coast Guard barred from boarding Chinese ship anchored off Catanduanes
MANILA, Philippines—The crew of a Chinese research ship that entered waters off Catanduanes province without clearance from the Philippine government refused access to Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) men supposedly because of COVID-19 protocols.
Commodore Armand Balilo, PCG spokesperson, said a PCG boat was deployed to inspect Chinese ship Jia Geng which entered Philippine waters without Philippine government clearance last Jan. 29.
The PCG men were told they can’t board the Chinese vessel because of COVID-19 restrictions, according to Balilo.
The Chinese ship should be subject to Philippine port state control because it was inside municipal waters.
“The captain refused to be boarded due to health protocol. Thus, PCG asked for documents for verification,” said Balilo.
He said the PCG in Catanduanes closely watched the ship 24/7 and monitored its activities throughout its stay.
Last Jan. 30, he said the PCG was informed by the Department of Foreign Affairs that the Chinese embassy requested for diplomatic clearance for the ship to take shelter in Catanduanes due to bad weather. At the time the Chinese ship entered Philippine waters, however, there was no storm or strong waves in the area.
According to ship tracking data shared with INQUIRER.net, Jia Geng had been conducting research in the northwest Pacific Ocean and was running at 1 knot for a few days before it entered Philippine waters. The Chinese ship left Gaoqi Wharf in Fujian Sheng, China last Dec. 23 and passed through the high seas between Taiwan and northern Luzon before it entered the Pacific.
The Chinese vessel entered the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone last Jan. 25. Ryan Martinson, an assistant professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute of the US Naval War College, posted on Twitter last Jan. 27 that Jia Geng was located 130 nautical miles east of Samar province.
A document seen by INQUIRER.net showed that the vessel, through the Chinese embassy, sought clearance from the Philippine government last Jan. 28 to anchor in Cabugao Bay from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 “due to weather and sea conditions.”
As of Monday (Feb. 1), Jia Geng left Cabugao Bay in Bato, Catanduanes. Balilo said an Islander plane was sent to oversee the ship leaving Philippine waters.
The presence of the ship caused alarm among residents of Bato, Catanduanes, which was first spotted on Thursday (Jan. 28), said a report in radio station dzZRH quoting Bato Mayor Juan Rodulfo.
Rodulfo, according to the dzRH report, quoted the PCG as initially saying it didn’t have authority over the ship sighted in the area.