Chinese forces harass Philippine Navy ship — Alejano

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star
Chinese forces harass Philippine Navy ship â Alejano
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said the military has lodged a complaint with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) about the incident, which took place last May 11.
AP / Renato Etac, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Combined forces of China’s Coast Guard and Navy harassed a Philippine Navy ship transporting supplies for a small contingent of Filipino soldiers guarding Ayungin Shoal off Palawan, a Marine captain-turned-congressman revealed yesterday.

Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said the military has lodged a complaint with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) about the incident, which took place last May 11.

He said the Navy’s BRP Benguet, a landing craft inherited from the US, was carrying provisions for Filipino soldiers stationed on the aging BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin when a Chinese Coast Guard vessel with bow number 3368 and a Chinese Navy ship with bow number 549 tried to stop it.

“When the Philippine Navy ship launched a rubber boat to resupply Sierra Madre, a chopper of the Chinese Navy hovered at a close and dangerous distance. The chopper was so close that seawater splash entered the rubber boat,” he pointed out.

Ayungin Shoal is just 105 nautical miles from Palawan and “is well within the 200-mile Philippine exclusive economic zone and is also part of our continental shelf,” Alejano stressed.

“Despite all these, China still claims Ayungin Shoal,” he added, noting that previous incidents showed that only the Chinese Coast Guard harassed Philippine vessels and Filipino fishermen.

“Now, they are already accompanied by the Chinese Navy. This is a clear threat to our security forces by no less than the Chinese Coast Guard and Navy which obviously requires condemnation from our end,” Alejano stressed.

He lamented that the Duterte administration or concerned officials made no such condemnation, protest or expression of concern. During Wednesday’s briefing on the West Philippine Sea dispute called by House special committee chairman Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Alejano informed Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano of the incident.

“No clear answer was given regarding the action the government has taken. As usual, the Duterte administration gives us the same general statements that they are discussing the matter and will be taking action, but the public is still being left in the dark,” he said.

But Malacañang clarified yesterday that the Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest against China as it stressed that President Duterte would not abandon Manila’s maritime claims in the South China Sea. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. confirmed in a text message that the government sent a diplomatic note to China but declined to provide details. 

“The President, who is the chief architect of the nation’s foreign policy, will not sit on our rights and will never give away even an inch of territory. The current administration has acted on incidents which occurred in the disputed areas over the West Philippine Sea by taking diplomatic actions with China,” the spokesman said. 

“Indeed, we will resort to all diplomatic initiatives when warranted but without fanfare,” he added. 

Alejano urged the administration to reveal details of harassment and militarization incidents, and the measures it is taking “if it wants the public to trust its approach in the West Philippine Sea.”  - With Alexis Romero 

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