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In 3 separate showdowns, Chinese ships challenged research vessels in Philippine EEZ — think tank

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
In 3 separate showdowns, Chinese ships challenged research vessels in Philippine EEZ — think tank
The CCG 5203, CG 5001, and Legend on March 26
CSIS / AMTI via Planet Labs

MANILA, Philippines — In a bid to control maritime activity within its invalid nine-dash line, Beijing has challenged vessels conducting marine research in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, according to a report.

Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) reported three separate rounds of Chinese coast coast guard and militia harassing vessels in the Philippine EEZ.

"Beijing giving the Marcos admin a preview of what it can expect," AMTI Director Gregory Poling said on Twitter.

While the Philippines has ramped up its patrols in the West Philippine Sea, AMTI noted that "it remains to be seen how forcefully the Philippines will continue to assert those rights" as the Marcos administration takes over in June.

"All three incidents demonstrate Beijing’s determination to control maritime activity within the nine-dash line, and to create a high risk of collisions at sea to do so," the think tank reported.

Taiwanese research vessel Legend

As part of a joint project of the National Institute of Geological Sciences at the University of the Philippines and National Central University in Taiwan, research vessel Legend set sail toward the Philippines on March 13, according to AMTI.

The Legend, belonging to the Taiwan Ocean Research Institute, was to conduct research in the Philippines as part of Taiwan's New Southbound Policy.

On March 23, China Coast Guard (CCG) 5203 left Panganiban (Mischief) Reef and started shadowing the Legend as it continues its research 60 nautical miles northwest of Luzon.

Taiwan had to deploy its own coast guard vessels CG 5001 Chiayi, CG 117 Taichung and CG 120 Kaohsiung to keep the Chinese coast guard ship away from Legend.

On April 6, Philippine Coast Guard patrol vessel BRP Capones accompanied the Legend as it moved 70 nautical miles west of Luzon. Based on date from Marine Traffic, CCG returned the same night to shadow the Taiwanese vessel as Capones provides protection.

"The game of cat and mouse ended on April 9 when the Legend returned to Taiwan," AMTI reported.

Survey ship Geo Coral, supply ship Mariska G

On April 4, Norwegian survey ship Geo Coral and supply ship Mariska G were shadowed by CCG 4201 as they arrived in Block SC 75 about 60 nautical miles off Palawan, AMTI said, citing Automatic Identification System (AIS) data.

Geo Coral and Mariska G were conducting 3D seismic surveys in SC 75 as earlier announced by PXP Energy.

"The 4201 closely followed the two vessels for the next two days until, on April 6, the Philippines’ Department of Energy ordered PXP Energy to “put on hold all exploration activities for SC 75 and SC 72 until such time that the SJPCC [Security, Justice and Peace Coordinating Cluster, part of the president’s Cabinet] has issued the necessary clearance to proceed,'" AMTi said.

M/V DA BFAR, BRP Cape Engaño

As M/V DA BFAR, a research vessel operated by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, approached Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal on April 21, it caught the attention of CCG 5304.

Citing AIS data, AMTI reported that the Chinese coast guard ship pursued the DA BFAR "at extremely close distances, coming as close as 100 meters in multiple instances."

Another Chinese coast guard ship CCG 5303 and two militia vessels Qiong Sansha Yu 00401 and Qiong Sansha Yu 00105 also came close as CCG 5304 followed DA BFAR, later on forcing the Philippine research vessel to retreat.

Meanwhile, CCG 5303 and Qiong Sansha Yu 00105 also shadowed PCG patrol vessel BRP BRP Cape Engaño as it approached Ayungin Shoal.

As the three vessels stopped 6 nautical miles from the shoal, three more Chinese militia vessels approached the area.

"The vessels all maintained their positions for several hours before the Cape Engaño turned back eastward, encouraged by the approaching 5303, which tailed it until it left the area heading northwest toward unoccupied Whitsun Reef," AMTI said.

AYUNGIN SHOAL

CHINA COAST GUARD

GREGORY POLING

PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD

SOUTH CHINA SEA

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

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