3 Sino research ships in PH waters? DND denies 1 of them at Masinloc
At least three Chinese research vessels were seen operating in the West Philippine Sea this week, according to an international maritime expert.
In a Twitter post on Thursday, Ryan Martinson, assistant professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College, said Chinese survey ships Hai Da Hao, Jia Geng and Dong Fang Hong 3 were spotted in the waters within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Martinson first tweeted on Wednesday that Hai Da Hao, a research/survey vessel operated by the Ocean University of China, was spotted 65 nautical miles east of Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), in waters off Zambales province.
He posted a map of the waters west of Luzon and a yellow-colored track of its voyage.
Another map indicated the position of Jia Geng off the coast of Busuanga, Palawan province, and Dong Fang Hong 3 west of the Pangasinan seaboard on Wednesday. He did not say how the ships were tracked.
Jia Geng is operated by the Xiamen University and Dong Fang Hong 3 is also run by the Ocean University of China.
Martinson said that another Chinese research vessel, Xiang Yang Hong 10 of China’s State Oceanic Administration, had been operating in the waters off Brunei and Malaysia since early July.
Not as alleged
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana dismissed Martinson’s report.
“Contrary to some published reports regarding the Chinese research vessel Hai Da Hao, the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] Northern Luzon Command has reported that the said vessel has not been spotted near Bajo de Masinloc as alleged,” Lorenzana said in a statement.
Based on a verification of Hai Da Hao’s one-year historical track, he said the ship “did not pass through nor did it enter the area of responsibility of Naval Forces Northern Luzon.”
According to the Department of National Defense, Hai Da Hao was monitored about 55.5 kilometers south of Huidong county, which is under Huizhou City in Guangdong province.
Lorenzana said they would check the veracity of Martinson’s posts regarding the presence of Jia Geng and Dong Fang Hong 3 in the Philippine EEZ.
Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said there should be no issue if the Chinese vessels were just passing through the Philippine waters as it was part of freedom of navigation.
Not an issue if . . .
“But it would be an issue if these Chinese vessels were conducting marine research surveys in the sea floors within our EEZ without notifying the government,” he said in a television interview.
According to Batongbacal, it would be more prudent for these Chinese research ships to be escorted by Philippine Coast Guard vessels to check what they were doing while passing through the country’s waters.
He said that based on the notices of the China Maritime Safety Administration, Hai Da Hao was conducting a “cable root survey,” or survey of underwater cables, outside the Philippine EEZ.
Batongbacal previously warned that Chinese vessels may be illegally surveying the West Philippine Sea.
The presence of Jia Geng, and another Chinese research vessel Zhang Jian, in August 2019, in Philippine EEZ without notifying the country, prompted Manila to file diplomatic protests against Beijing.
In April and May 2020, Jia Geng was also found reportedly conducting illegal research activities at Bajo de Masinloc and Kalayaan Island Group, prompting another series of protests from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
In January this year, Jia Geng again entered the country’s EEZ and docked off Catanduanes. The Chinese Embassy denied reports of its illegal activities and said the vessel just sought shelter from bad weather.
Other Chinese research vessels monitored to be operating within the Philippine EEZ in previous years were Haiyang Dishi 12, Xiang Yang Hong 14 and Shi Yan 2.
The national government has yet to give the results of the investigation being conducted by the Department of Science and Technology on the Chinese ocean bottom seismometer found by fishermen on July 1 in waters off Pangasinan north of Bajo de Masinloc.
The equipment is used to monitor ground movement on the ocean floor and often used in offshore oil exploration.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque played down the find and expressed confidence that China was not conducting oil exploration within the Philippine waters.
According to Roque, the country would not seek an explanation from China since they had not received any report from maritime security forces conducting patrols in the Philippine waters.
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