PCG vessel harassed again by Chinese ships
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Sunday accused the Chinese coast guard of conducting “dangerous and blocking maneuvers” in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea during a nine-day patrol early this month.
Four China Coast Guard vessels with bow numbers 3105, 3302, 3063 and 3064 carried out the “dangerous and blocking maneuvers” against the PCG’s BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV-9701) four times and tried to cut its path twice, “recklessly” disregarding the international rules on preventing collisions at sea, the PCG said in a statement.
It said the Chinese ships also shadowed the Philippine vessel 40 times over the course of the nine-day patrol that started on Feb. 1. Four Chinese maritime militia were also spotted supporting the Chinese coast guard ship during the mission.
The PCG said the BRP Teresa Magbanua engaged the Chinese ships “professionally” through radio, “reiterating the clear and principled position of the Philippines in accordance with international law.”
“The Philippines has sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc and its territorial sea, and sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the surrounding waters falling within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as measured from the Philippine archipelagic baselines, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Arbitral Award,” the PCG said.
On July 12, 2016, an international arbitral tribunal hearing the Philippines’ case against China in the South China Sea ruled in favor of the Philippines, deciding that China’s claims—including its nine-dash line, recent land reclamation activities, and other activities in Philippine waters—were unlawful. China has refused to recognize the ruling.
PH-US drills also shadowed
During the patrol, the PCG said it supported a total of 100 Filipino fishermen in 14 Filipino fishing boats in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc. The crew of BRP Teresa Magbanua also distributed food packs and groceries to assist the fishermen.
On Feb. 5, the Chinese coast guard said it expelled a PCG ship that “intruded” adjacent to Bajo de Masinloc, a claim that was later dismissed by the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of commercial shipping annually, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
Bajo de Masinloc, a rich fishing ground off Zambales province, is a small ring of reefs located within the country’s EEZ. In 2012, China seized control of the shoal after a tense standoff with the Philippine Navy, prompting the Philippine government to file a case against it before the international arbitration court.
A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy vessel also shadowed Philippine and US Navy ships conducting a maritime cooperative activity (MCA) in the West Philippine Sea, Philippine Navy spokesperson Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad told dzRH on Sunday.
The Philippine Navy’s BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PS-15) and the US Navy’s USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) took part in a series of maritime exercises within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone on Friday and Saturday.
Trinidad said the Chinese ship did not conduct any “illegal maneuvers” throughout the MCA. “It was just in the vicinity observing the Philippine and US ships until they parted ways,” he said.
Two Chinese navy ships also shadowed Philippine and US Navy vessels during last month’s MCA in the West Philippine Sea.
It was the third MCA of both countries since it was launched in November, as the two allies sought to step up cooperation and enhance interoperability in the face of Chinese assertiveness in the West Philippine Sea.
Promise of diplomacy
The latest incidents took place a few weeks after diplomats from the Philippines and China met in Shanghai where they agreed to manage disputes and “further improve maritime communication” during the eighth meeting of the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea.
Both sides “agreed to calmly deal with incidents, if any, through diplomacy,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said after the meeting.
On Jan. 17, China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Nong Rong co-chaired the BCM with Foreign Undersecretary Maria Theresa Lazaro.
A statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the two sides had a “candid and in-depth exchange of views” on the situation in the South China Sea and maritime issues of their respective concern.
“The two sides agreed to further improve the maritime communication mechanism, continue to properly manage maritime disputes and differences through friendly consultation, properly handle maritime emergencies, in particular, the situation on the ground at Ren’ai Jiao (Second Thomas Shoal), and constantly promote practical maritime cooperation, so as to create favorable conditions for the sound and stable development of China-Philippines relations,” it said. INQ