The Philippine Navy's BRP Gregorio del Pilar is anchored near Thitu island during the visit of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to the island in the Spratlys on April 21, 2017.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
China Coast Guard ship spotted near grounded BRP Del Pilar
(Philstar.com) - September 3, 2018 - 10:23am

MANILA, Philippines — A Chinese Coast Guard cutter was spotted on Sunday at Half Moon or Hasa-Hasa Shoal, where a Philippine Navy frigate ran aground last Wednesday.

Ryan Martinson, assistant professor at China Maritime Studies Institute, posted on Twitter that the CCG's Zhongguohaijing 3402 was at Hasa-Hasa Shoal on Sunday morning.

This was based on data retrieved from ship tracking intelligence MarineTraffic.

Last week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed that Beijing was working with Manila for search and rescue matters after the Philippine Navy's BRP Gregorio del Pilar ran aground near Hasa-Hasa Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

"China Coast Guard vessels are already at the scene. 'Nanhaijiu 115', specialized in maritime search and rescue, is also in nearby waters," Chinese Foreign Minister spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a press briefing last Friday.

According to the Philippine military, the Del Pilar ran aground the shoal during a routine patrol Wednesday night.

China 'intervention'

Greg Poling, director of US think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, warned that China may take advantage of the situation by offering assistance to the Philippines.

"Worse, China could unilaterally act to 'assist' the ship stranded on what China calls Banyue Jiao [and] prevent [Philippine] ships from intervening," Poling said on Twitter.

Hasa-Hasa Shoal is on the eastern edge of the disputed Spratly Islands, where China has transformed disputed reefs into islands, three of which were installed with runways and reportedly missile defense system.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, said that Philippines can handle the situation amid China's offer to help.

"It was not intentional," military spokesman Col. Noel Detoyato said, adding that two Philippine tugboats were deployed to retrieve the grounded vessel. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

BRP GREGORIO DEL PILAR CHINA COAST GUARD PHILIPPINE NAVY PHILIPPINES-CHINA TIES SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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