Chinese Coast Guard aims laser at PCG vessel on resupply mission

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
Chinese Coast Guard aims laser at PCG vessel on resupply mission
China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel 5205 directed a military-grade laser light at BRP Malapascua, which was on a rotation and resupply mission to assist the Philippine Navy posted in Ayungin Shoal on February 6, 2023.
Facebook / Philippine Coast Guard

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Coast Guard said a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel blocked and directed a military-grade laser at a Philippine vessel on a resupply mission last week, causing some of the coast guard crew onboard to experience temporary blindness. 

The BRP Malapascua (MRRV-4403) was assisting a rotation and resupply mission of the Philippine Navy on February 6 when the incident with the CCG vessel with bow number 5205 happened.

"The deliberate blocking of the Philippine government ships to deliver food and supplies to our military personnel on board the BRP Sierra Madre is a blatant disregard for, and a clear violation of, Philippine sovereign rights in this part of the West Philippine Sea," the PCG said in a statement on Monday.

RELATED: DFA: No details yet on 'direct line' with China on West Philippine Sea

What happened?

BRP Malapascua was 10 nautical miles (nm) away from Ayungin Shoal when the CCG ship was seen 4 nm ahead and maneuvering from the portside or its left to block the Philippine ship.

The Chinese ship flashed its military-grade green laser light twice against the Philippine vessel. The PCG said the ship also "made dangerous maneuvers," reaching as close to around 150 yards (137 meters) to the right of the BRP Malapascua.

Because of the incident, the BRP Malapascua shifted its course to Lawak Island to continue its maritime patrol and its RORE mission to stations within the Kalayaan Island Group, assisting the BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV-9701). 

"The PCG will continue to exercise due diligence in protecting the country's territorial integrity against foreign aggression. The AFP can always rely on the PCG to support their resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal,"Coast Guard Adm. Artemio Abu said. 

"Despite the dangerous maneuver of the much larger CCG ships and their aggressive actions at sea, the PCG ships will always be in the West Philippine Sea to sustain our presence and assert our sovereign rights." 

This is not the first reported incident involving CCG vessels in the area of Ayungin Shoal or in the broader West Philippine Sea. 

Manila and Beijing have agreed to set up a direct communication line to help defuse tension in the West Philippine Sea, the portion of the South China Sea within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

That direct line, however, has yet to established as details had yet to be negotiated as of January.

RELATED: After fresh incident with China Coast Guard, DFA asserts Ayungin part of Philippines

Call for help

While a 2016 Hague ruling already invalidated China’s sweeping nine-dash claims over the waters, Beijing continues to assert that it is part of its territory – in the process harassing Philippine ships and crew aboard the vessels. 

Meanwhile, Sen. Risa Hontiveros has called on Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs to coordinate with other countries and use regional blocs, strategic security dialogues in the region, and other avenues to seek support from other countries in asserting the Philippines’ rights over the waters. 

"We need to establish an updated security framework with our partners in the region as soon as possible," Hontiveros said in a statement.

READ: DFA: South China Sea Code of Conduct ‘very far’ from conclusion

with a report from Xave Gregorio

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