AFP spots 5 CCG ships, 18 militia boats in Bajo de Masinloc

AFP spots 5 CCG ships, 18 militia boats in Bajo de Masinloc

By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 05:36 AM March 13, 2024

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has spotted five China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels and 18 Chinese maritime militia ships at Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) as of March 11, following the Philippine government’s decision to conduct regular patrols in one of its traditional fishing grounds.

Bajo de Masinloc, which is within Manila’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone, is 220 km west of Zambales province.

Col. Francel Margareth Padilla, the AFP spokesperson, said at a press briefing on Tuesday that 10 small boats from China were also present at Scarborough as of 4 p.m. on Monday.

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A July 2016 ruling by the arbitral tribunal in The Hague, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea, said Scarborough is a traditional fishing ground for Filipinos, Vietnamese and Chinese.

China, which refuses to recognize the arbitral ruling, took control of the resource-rich shoal in 2012 after a standoff with the Philippine Navy.

On Jan. 12, the CCG drove away Filipino fishermen at Scarborough who were collecting sea shells while another Filipino fishing boat was harassed by CCG personnel on board their rubber boat.

Constant harassment

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said the rotational deployment by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) or Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels at Scarborough was a decisive action by the government to secure its traditional fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea.

On March 8, PCG spokesperson Rear Adm. Armand Balilo said the BRP Malabrigo returned to Manila after a three-day patrol at Bajo de Masinloc.

US maritime security expert Ray Powell, who heads the Project Myoushu (South China Sea) at the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation at Stanford University, said BRP Malabrigo was “harassed constantly” by CCG and Chinese maritime militia ships during its patrol at Scarborough last week but the PCG has yet to release a report on this.

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Balilo told reporters that the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea would be the proper body to release the details.

Earlier this month, four Navy personnel onboard a Philippine resupply boat were also injured after a CCG vessel made “dangerous blocking maneuvers” and fired water cannon at the civilian ship in the West Philippine Sea.

National Security Council spokesperson Jonathan Malaya earlier said the March 5 collision between Philippine and Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea that injured Navy officials was the “most serious incident yet” involving Manila and Beijing.

More resupply missions

Aside from Scarborough, Padilla said the AFP also saw one CCG ship and six Chinese fishing vessels at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, where the World War II-era ship BRP Sierra Madre was deliberately grounded to serve as the Philippines’ military outpost in the West Philippine Sea.

One CCG vessel and six China fishing vessels were likewise spotted in the vicinity of the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island while seven Chinese fishing vessels were observed near Panata Island in the West Philippine Sea, according to Padilla.

She said there were “no other significant sightings” in the other features in the West Philippine Sea.

Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, Philippine Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, said in the same briefing with Padilla on Tuesday that the military was more concerned about the illegal actions of China than the number of their ships in the area.

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Early next month, the AFP would conduct rotation and resupply missions to its outposts on the islands of Pagasa, Kota, Panata and Parola, according to Padilla.

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TAGS: AFP, China, coast guard, Military, Philippines, Ships, West Philippine Sea

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