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Chinese coast guard ship sails close, constrains maneuvering space of Philippine patrol vessel near Panatag

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — A China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel maneuvered close to a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship to the point of constraining the latter's maneuvering space, the coast guard said Sunday.

PCG multi-role response vessel BRP Malabrigo reported that CCG with bow number 3305 conducted a close distance maneuvering while the Philippine ship was on maritime patrol in the West Philippine Sea on March 2.

The Chinese vessel came within 21 yards of BRP Malabrigo while sailing in the vicinity waters of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, which is well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

The PCG pointed out that the actions of the Chinese vessel are a clear violation of the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

PCG Commandant CG Adm. Artemio Abu said the behavior of Chinese coast guard vessels increased the risk of collision with four of PCG's capital ships.

"Hence, we immediately coordinated with the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to address this issue through rules-based and peaceful approaches," Abu said.

The March 2 incident is the reported incident of a CCG ship conducting close distance maneuvering.

The first three incidents were:

  • PCG-manned BFAR ship MCS-3005 reported close distance maneuvering of CCG 3301 on May 19, 2021.
     
  • CCG 3301 and 3302 conducted close distance maneuvering with PCG's BRP Capones and BRP Sindangan during the coast guard's exercises in Panatag Shoal from June 1 to 2, 2021.

Despite the dangerous situations at sea, Abu said the coast guard will continue to deploy assets in Panatag Shoal, Philippine (Benham) Rise and other parts of the country's EEZ.

"We will continue to work silently and diligently for we are serving Filipino fishermen at sea. As long as they feel safe seeing us during their fishing operations, we know that we are doing our job well,” Abu said.

Last Friday, the coast guard confirmed the increasing presence of Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal, which an UNCLOS-backed tribunal ruled as a traditional fishing ground open to all.

Following the July 2016 arbitral ruling, there have been reports of China Coast Guard ships blocking access to and driving away Filipino fishermen from the traditional fishing ground off the coast of Zambales.

Abu said the increased presence of Filipino ships in the shoal "is proof of our intensified efforts to safeguard Filipino fishermen who consider fishing as their primary source of livelihood."

BAJO DE MASINLOC

CHINA COAST GUARD

PANATAG SHOAL

PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD

SCARBOROUGH SHOAL

SOUTH CHINA SEA

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

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