BRP Conrado Yap (PS- 39), a former South Korean Navy ship, is the Philippine Navy's newest and most powerful ship.
The STAR/KJ Rosales, File
Chinese ship showed 'hostile intent' in February incident in West Philippine Sea
Roel Pareño ( - April 23, 2020 - 5:46pm

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — The military's Western Command in Palawan confirmed Thursday that a Chinese ship had aimed its gun control director—a computer that calculates firing solutions—at a Philippine Navy ship in the West Philippine Sea in February. 

Wescom issued the statement after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted on Wednesday that the Philippines had sent China two diplomatic protests, including one over the incident involving BRP Conrado Yap (PS39).

Vice Admiral Rene Medina, commander of WesCom and of Joint Task Force West (JTFW), said the February 17 incident was reported by the commanding officer of the Conrado Yap.

He said that the ship sailed out of Puerto Princesa City on February 15 to conduct Territorial Defense Operations and sovereignty patrol at Malampaya Natural Gas to Power Project (MNGPP) and in the Kalayaan Island Group in the West Philippine Sea.

On February 17, the Conrado Yap detected a radar contact of a gray-colored vessel while sailing to Rizal Reef Detachment. Gray hulls usually denote military ships.

Medina said PS39 issued a radio challenge to the gray ship, which he said responded that "the Chinese government has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea, its islands and its adjacent waters."

He said the Philippine Navy patrol ship again challenged the vessel, which then "repeated its response and maintained her course and speed."

He said the navy ship was able to identify the vessel as a People's Liberation Army Navy ship with bow number 514.

"From there, PS39 was able to visually observe that the gun control director, an equipment that gives information in obtaining a fire control solution, of said PLAN vessel was directed towards PS39," Medina said, citing the incident report.

Medina said the gun control director can be used to designate and track targets and prepare main guns to fire.

"The PS39 has no electronic countermeasures and cannot readily say the intent but...that was our assessment. Why would move you the gun director towards the target? So there was really an intent," Medina said.

"While PS39 does not have the Electronic Support Measures (ESM) to confirm that PLAN gun control director was directed towards her, visual identification confirms this hostile intent," he also said.

The Wescom chief also described the Chinese ship's actions as hostile and an encroachment on the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and its sovereignty.

He said the PS39 continued to challenge the PLAN ship diplomatically and that both vessels continued sailing after the incident.

"The Western Command, as the AFP's primary unit in the West Philippine Sea, will continue to perform its duty and will never be intimidated nor let our guards down in protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the Philippines and will support any future capability upgrade of our ships patrolling our Philippine Waters," Medina added. 

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