Chinese militia blocks Philippine vessel anew

Ghio Ong - The Philippine Star
Chinese militia blocks Philippine vessel anew
This photo taken on Aug. 22, 2023 from the deck of Philippine coast guard ship BRP Cabra shows a Chinese coast guard ship (R) shadowing a civilian boat (C) chartered by the Philippine navy to deliver supplies to Philippine navy ship BRP Sierra Madre in Second Thomas Shoal, known in the disputed South China Sea. A team of AFP journalists on board the BRP Cabra, one of the two Philippine Coast Guard escort boats, watched as one of the Chinese ships came within several meters of the vessel. AFP was one of three media outlets given the rare opportunity to join the Philippine resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal, less than three weeks after Chinese coast guard ships water cannoned a similar replenishment operation.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — A Chinese maritime militia ship engaged a Philippine vessel in a “dangerous maneuver” in an attempt to prevent it from delivering supplies and other provisions to fishermen in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off the coast of Zambales.

In videos posted on state-run PTV, the Chinese vessel sailed close to another ship flying two Philippine flags.

Another video showed the supposed blocking attempt by the Chinese maritime militia vessel on the BRP Datu Sanday of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

The Chinese ship was estimated to be 300 meters close to the BFAR vessel, according to PTV. The incident happened 1.2 nautical miles south of Panatag Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc.

Despite the challenge, the BFAR and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) were able to deliver supplies, including gasoline and grocery packs, to the Filipino fishermen onboard 44 mother ships in Panatag Shoal, the state-run television network added.

Meanwhile, a group supposedly based in China once again accused the Philippines of provocation due to the presence of Filipino fishing boats around the Panatag Shoal.

In a post on X yesterday, the South China Sea Probing Initiative posted photos that it said were of Philippine fishing boats scattered around Panatag Shoal last Feb. 22.

One photo showed the boats seemingly forming a line, while another showed the boats already dispersed.

“Obviously, this is an organized provocative behavior and has nothing to do with the livelihood of fishermen,” the group claimed.

The Filipino vessels were also “just aiming to challenge the status quo of Chinese control,” it added.

The South China Sea Probing Initiative – with officials composed mostly of Chinese academicians – was established in April 2019 or three years after the 2016 arbitral award, “with a view to maintaining and promoting the peace, stability and prosperity of the South China Sea,” according to information on its website

“The Initiative aims to integrate intellectual resources and open source information worldwide and keep track of important actions and major policy changes of key stakeholders and other parties involved. It provides professional data services and analysis reports to parties concerned, helping them keep competition under control and with a view to seek partnerships,” it added.

PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela, who speaks for West Philippine Sea concerns, slammed the claim by the group, asserting Filipino fishing boats were not being used for any hostile or provocative operation.

He maintained the Filipino fishing boats were “waiting in line to receive fuel subsidies from the (BRP Datu Sanday),” he wrote on his X account in response to the group’s post.

“We are not like China that uses fishing vessels as part of its gray zone tactics to alter the status quo in the West Philippine Sea. Filipino fishermen have been fishing in these waters for generations, long before the establishment of the Chinese Coast Guard,” he pointed out.

Tarriela added the Philippines has “no reason for us to justify our presence there because the Philippines has sovereignty over (Bajo de Masinloc) and its territorial sea, and sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the surrounding waters falling within our EEZ as measured from the our archipelagic baselines in accordance with UNCLOS” or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Meanwhile, the coast guard of the United Kingdom has expressed support for its Philippine counterpart, particularly in protecting the Indo-Pacific region.

The assurance was relayed by officers of HMS Spey, a batch 2 River-class offshore patrol vessel, docked at the Port of Manila until today.

PCG chief Rear Admiral Hostillo Arturo Cornelio welcomed HMS Spey’s commanding officer Commander Paul Caddy at the PCG national headquarters last Feb. 23, it added.

The return of the HMS Spey “served as an official defense engagement and outreach to build relationships forged through exercise and to reassure the Philippines of the United Kingdom’s maritime presence under our Indo-Pacific strategy,” the PCG said.

It added the said vessel joined the exercise SAMA-SAMA with the United States Navy and the Philippine Navy. The exercise “strengthened the country’s international defense cooperation and advance a rules-based international order.”

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