Coast Guard spots 30 suspected Chinese militia vessels in Sabina, Ayungin shoal
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Wednesday confirmed the presence of at least 30 suspected Chinese maritime militia (CMM) vessels in Sabina and Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippines Sea.
During its maritime domain awareness flight on Tuesday, February 21, the PCG aircraft Cessna Caravan 2081 spotted at least 26 vessels in Sabina Shoal, while around four were also spotted in Ayungin Shoal.
Upon arriving in Sabina Shoal, the PCG aircraft received “inaudible” radio challenges from China Coast Guard (CCG)-5304, prompting the PCG aircraft to issue its own radio challenge as well to drive the vessel away.
The PCG aircraft also heard an “inaudible” radio challenge from CCG-5304 upon arriving in Ayungin Shoal which led them to issue the same.
“Throughout PCG Cessna Caravan 2081’s maritime domain awareness flight it continued to issue radio challenges to both CCG vessels and suspected CMM vessels in the area in and around Ayungin and Sabina Shoals,” the PCG said in a statement.
“Suspected CMM vessels were directed to immediately depart the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and were warned that they were not authorized to loiter nor swarm these shoals,” it added.
Furthermore, the PCG aircraft observed that CCG-5304 vessel maintained a constant close distance of not more than one nautical mile from BRP Sierra Madre.
The recent development comes after the February 6 incident in the Ayungin Shoal, when a Chinese Coast Guard flashed a military grade laser light toward the PCG vessel, which was supporting a rotation and resupply mission of the Philippine Navy for BRP Sierra Madre.
China’s action was anchored on its assertion that it owns almost all of the areas in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.
In 2016, the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea.
The tribunal ruled that China’s claim had no basis in international law and that it had violated the Philippines’ sovereign right to fish and explore resources in the West Philippine Sea, the waters within the country’s 370-kilometer EEZ in the South China Sea.
The Philippines, under the administration of then President Benigno Aquino III in 2013, challenged before the Hague court China’s claim that it owned more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, which included waters in the EEZ of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
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