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Chinese militia vessels at Sabina Shoal disperse after challenge by coast guard — Esperon

Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 8:36 a.m.) — Chinese maritime militia vessels seen at Sabina (Escoda) Shoal off the coast of Palawan have dispersed after a series of challenges by the Philippine Coast Guard, according to a report from the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS).

The report said that on April 27, seven Chinese maritime militia (CMM) vessels were seen "nested or in stationary liner formation" at the shoal located 130 nautical miles west of Puerto Princesa, Palawan and east of Ayungin Shoal.

The Philippine Coast Guard's BRP Cabra and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ships MCS 3002 and 3004 were conducting maritime patrols in the area.

"The crew of BRP Cabra issued a series of challenges to the offending vessels, but elicited no response from the CMMs. After around 20 minutes, however, the CMMs vessels dispersed and left the shoal after being challenged by BRP Cabra," National Security Adviser and NTF-WPS chair Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

BRP Cabra communicated with the Chinese maritime militia ships to point out that Sabina Shoal is part of the Philippine exclusive economic zone, the Philippine Coast Guard said in a statement.

"This is Philippine Coast Guard BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409). You are within Philippine exclusive economic zone," BRP Cabra told the Chinese vessels, requesting them to provide their intention.

BRP Cabra, along with the two BFAR ships, went closer to the seven Chinese ships when they did not respond. 

"PCG and BFAR followed the sailing of the ships to ensure that the Chinese maritime militia vessels left Sabina Shoal," the coast guard said.

Five Chinese maritime militia ships were again sighted at Sabina Shoal when BRP Cabra returned two days later on April 29.

Esperon, however, noted that the Chinese ships left upon the arrival of the Philippine coast guard vessel.

"The Philippines is not deterred from defending our national interest, patrimony, and our dignity as a people with all that we have," Esperon said.

Just last week, the NTF-WPS confirmed that Chinese coast guard ships illegally remain in the West Philippine Sea.

The task force reported that three Chinese coast guard ships were seen in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, one in the municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan and another one in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

CHINA PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD SABINA SHOAL SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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