44 Chinese ships spotted in waters off Pag-asa
MANILA, Phillippines — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Saturday spotted Chinese military ships and more than 40 Chinese maritime militia (CMM) vessels anchored within the waters near Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in Palawan province.
The PCG personnel stationed on the island reported the presence of a ship belonging to the People’s Liberation Army Navy, a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel with bow number 5203, and 42 suspected CMMs posing as fishing vessels at a distance of 4.5 to 8 nautical miles (8.3 to 14.8 kilometers) from Pag-asa Island, which is inside its 12-NM (22.2 km) territorial sea.
According to the PCG, the PLA Navy vessel and CCG 5203 have been observed to be loitering within the surrounding waters of Pag-asa Island at a distance of 8 NM (14.8 km) and 4 NM (7.4 km), respectively.
Fourteen suspected CMM vessels were also anchored within the vicinity of Pag-asa Cay 3 with an estimated distance of 4 NM (7.4 km) west of Pag-asa Island, while the other 28 suspected CMM vessels were monitored to be within the area of Pag-asa Cay 4.
“Their continuing unauthorized presence is clearly inconsistent with the right of innocent passage and a blatant violation of the Philippines’ territorial integrity,” the PCG said of the Chinese vessels.
Pag-asa is the second-largest naturally occurring feature in Spratlys, next to the Taiwanese-occupied Itu Aba, and the only one with civilian inhabitants. It has been occupied by the Philippines since 1971.
“Based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award, the observed location of the Chinese vessels fall squarely within Pag-asa Island’s 12 NM territorial sea,” the PCG said.
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