China Navy ship sighted near Pag-asa; more vessels swarm WPS
AFP monitoring as of March 19

China Navy ship sighted near Pag-asa; others more swarm WPS

By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 05:32 AM March 21, 2024

FILE PHOTO: Philippines resupply mission in the South China Sea

FILE PHOTO: A Chinese navy ship is seen sailing in the South China Sea, October 4, 2023. REUTERS

A Chinese warship was spotted in the vicinity of the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island on Tuesday while other Chinese vessels kept crowding around Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and other parts of the West Philippine Sea (WPS), according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Col. Francel Margareth Padilla, the AFP spokesperson, told a press briefing on Wednesday that as of March 19, six China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels and eight Chinese maritime militia ships remained in the waters of Panatag, also known as Bajo de Masinloc.


The shoal lies within Manila’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ), some 220 km west of Zambales province.


China took control of the resource-rich shoal in 2012 after a standoff with the Philippine Navy.

But in 2016, a Hague-based arbitral tribunal declared that the shoal was a traditional fishing ground shared by Filipinos, Vietnamese and Chinese.

READ: Marcos counters China’s demand on sea row: PH didn’t start the problems

The ruling, which Beijing does not recognize, also invalidated China’s sweeping claims to almost the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, which is what Manila calls the waters within its EEZ.

Spratly features

Aside from Panatag, Padilla said one People’s Liberation Army Navy vessel, a CCG ship, and six Chinese fishing vessels were sighted near Pag-asa Island, one of the nine features occupied by the Philippines in the Kalayaan Island Group, or the Spratly chain.

The island also lies within the Philippine EEZ.


According to Padilla, one CCG ship and six Chinese fishing vessels were also spotted in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, a low-elevation feature to which Manila stakes its claim through the grounded World War II-era ship BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as a military outpost in those waters.

Another Chinese fishing vessel was spotted near Lawak Island, one of the Philippine-occupied islands in the West Philippine Sea.

There was “no significant sighting on other West Philippine Sea features,” Padilla said.

In January, Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, Philippine Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, said some 15 to 25 Chinese warships were seen near Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, about 37 km southeast of Ayungin.

‘Worrisome’ presence

The Philippine Coast Guard also earlier confirmed the presence of a number of China’s warships around Panatag, where Filipino fisherfolk often complained of harassment by Chinese vessels.

President Marcos earlier said the growing presence of Chinese vessels so close to Philippine-occupied features in the waters was “worrisome.”

The President, however, maintained that he would not give up even an inch of Philippine territory to any foreign power.

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In February, the AFP said US Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. John Aquilino had committed to increasing Maritime Cooperative Activity, or joint naval maneuvers between Manila and Washington, to enhance interoperability of Filipino and American forces.

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TAGS: China, Ships, West Philippine Sea, WPS

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