3 Chinese research vessels spotted near Ayungin Shoal

3 Chinese research vessels spotted near Ayungin Shoal

/ 12:05 PM April 30, 2024

Philippine Coast Guard flyby over the South China Sea dnd ayungin

An aerial view shows the BRP Sierra Madre on the contested Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin, in the South China Sea, March 9, 2023/ File Photo

MANILA, Philippines — For the first time, three research vessels from China were spotted off Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine Navy said on Tuesday.

These research vessels were monitored in the vicinity of the sandbank on Monday (April 29), according to Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, who is the Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea.

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“I could remember that we have not recorded any research vessel from China in Ayungin Shoal [before],” Trinidad said in a regular Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regular briefing.

“The three vessels in Ayungin Shoal were not doing anything,” he said.

Trinidad also attributed the presence of Beijing’s research vessels to the ongoing “Balikatan” war games between Manila and Washington, which will last until May 10.

READ: Unauthorized presence of Chinese research ship seen off Catanduanes

“The three Chinese research vessels in Ayungin Shoal and one [on] the east coast, coinciding with BK (Balikatan), it is their way of showing that they are not deterred, they are not scared from what is happening in the West Philippine Sea,” Trinidad said.

For the first time this year, the Philippines, France and the United States conducted a multilateral maritime activity (MMA) in the West Philippine Sea as part of Balikatan.

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Aside from the three research vessels, four People’s Liberation Army-Navy warships were spotted throughout the MMA which ran from April 25 to April 29.

Beijing’s presence is based on its assertion of sovereignty in the entire South China Sea — including most of the West Philippine Sea — despite the July 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling that effectively invalidated its claims based on a case filed by Manila in 2013.

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TAGS: Ayungin Shoal, Balikatan, China, West Philippine Sea

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