China vessel stalks ‘Balikatan’ warships

China vessel stalks ‘Balikatan’ warships

/ 05:50 AM April 29, 2024

FIRST MISSION TOGETHER The BRP Ramon Alcaraz and France’s FS Vendemiaire maneuver on April 28. —PHOTO FROM LD-602

FIRST MISSION TOGETHER The BRP Ramon Alcaraz and France’s FS Vendemiaire maneuver on April 28. PHOTO FROM LD-602

MANILA, Philippines — Another Chinese gray ship was spotted on Sunday morning, apparently continuing to keep track of the multilateral maritime exercise (MME) being conducted off Palawan as part of this year’s “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) war games.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines assured that it remains unbothered by the presence of People’s Liberation Army Navy vessels near the exercise area and said that the Philippine military was, likewise, monitoring the movements of the Chinese ships in the area.


READ: ‘Balikatan’ on; AFP sees China shadowing drills


AFP Western Command (Wescom) spokesperson Capt. Ariel Joseph Coloma told reporters that a Chinese vessel, with bow number 578, was sighted some seven to eight nautical miles of the Philippine, American and French naval ships participating in the MME off the northern part of Palawan.

Coloma pointed out that while he was not privy to the purpose of the presence of the Chinese ship, “We are monitoring them and we record then we report whatever our ships are monitoring in the area.”

He noted that the Chinese vessel with bow number 793, which was spotted on Saturday near the MME-participating vessels: patrol ship BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16); landing dock BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602); the United States Navy’s landing ship dock USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49); and the French Navy’s frigate FS Vendémiaire (FFH-734), had already left the area.

Coloma assured that the four MME vessels continued its planned activities and the Wescom was not bothered by the presence of the Chinese ships.

READ: ‘Made in China’ ship as mock target in Balikatan unintentional—PH Navy

Nothing untoward

“As long as we continue to monitor and report them, we are in control of the situation, and besides the exercises are still continuing,” he pointed out, adding that nothing untoward has been reported by the MME participants despite the presence of the Chinese vessels.

The MME, which concludes on April 29, has been “achieving training objectives on a daily basis,” Coloma stressed.

The MME, which started on April 25, is part of the 39th iteration of the Balikatan exercises and aims to enhance the interoperability of the participating navies.

Meanwhile, a leftist farmers group in President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s home province of Ilocos Norte expressed opposition to the ongoing Balikatan, citing social and environmental costs.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) farmers’ group and its provincial chapter Alyansa Dagiti Mannalon ti Ilocos Norte reiterated their stance against Balikatan 24, which is the largest iteration yet of the joint military drills.

“Not all Filipinos are like the ‘Am-Boy’ [Marcos] who is bent on abiding by all the dictates and whims of the US government,” KMP said in a statement on Sunday.

Ilocos Norte is one of the key locations for this year’s Balikatan exercises, which have involved live-fire drills, maritime operations, air exercises and survival training across several provinces.

Leftist standpoint

The farmers said the increasing US military presence signals its “readiness to go to war in the region to protect its interests, with the smaller and weaker Philippine armed forces as its partner-lackey.”

They also criticized civic-military activities such as school visits and construction projects, saying these are aimed at “winning the hearts and minds” of Filipinos while the actual costs of the war games add to the burden on local communities.

AMIN expressed disappointment with Laoag City Mayor Michael Marcos Keon, a cousin of the President, for supporting Balikatan, reiterating the Chinese claim that it aggravates tensions with China.

“Decades of US-PH Balikatan war games since 1991 did not deter China’s incursion and bullying in the West Philippine Sea. Balikatan, in reality, is a surrender of sovereignty,” KMP claimed.

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The group vowed to join multi-sectoral protests against Balikatan and US military intervention on May 1.

The Philippine and US militaries have defended Balikatan as a means to strengthen alliance, security cooperation and humanitarian assistance capabilities.

TAGS: Balikatan 2024, multilateral maritime exercise, Wescom

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