‘PCG still able to reach Pag-asa despite Chinese ships’

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star
�PCG still able to reach Pag-asa despite Chinese ships�
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) raised alarm on Saturday after reporting the presence of People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA) Navy vessel, China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel 5203, and 42 suspected Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels in the vicinity of Pag-asa Island in Kalayaan, Palawan.
Facebook / Philippine Coast Guard

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the presence of more than 40 Chinese ships near Pag-asa Island, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels are still able to reach the island, which is within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said yesterday the presence of the Chinese naval, coast guard and militia vessels has not prevented PCG vessels from going to the island to deliver supplies to residents.

“We have two Coast Guard vessels patrolling the WPS but they are not in Pag-asa Island. They are patrolling in other places within the WPS but not in Pag-asa … But even if we get close to Pag-asa Island, the Chinese ships do not block our ships,” Tarriela said.

“The PCG can still reach Pag-asa island, our vessels and the aircraft as well,” he said.

While the two PCG ships are currently patrolling other areas in the WPS such as the Union Bank and Recto Bank, they “definitely will proceed to Pag-asa Island which is our farthest occupied territory in the WPS,” he added.

Tarriela also said that since their report last March 4, there have been no changes in the number of Chinese vessels loitering around Pag-asa Island.

The PCG estimated that the Chinese vessels were approximately 4.5 to eight nautical miles away from Pag-asa, or within the land feature’s 12 nautical mile territorial sea.

Pag-asa Island is the largest island in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) serving as the seat of the local government of the Municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan. It is estimated that more than 400 civilians – including some 70 children – call the island home, together with stationed military, law enforcement and civilian government personnel.

When asked if the PCG is planning to increase the number of its ships in the WPS, the Coast Guard official said it was possible but they would have to consider addressing other pressing matters first.

“That remains a possibility but as of now, we have an oil spill situation in Mindoro Oriental and an ongoing search and rescue for the (five) persons onboard a helicopter (that crashed) in Palawan,” he added.

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