'Standard challenge' issued vs 2 Chinese warships monitored in Basilan Strait

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
'Standard challenge' issued vs 2 Chinese warships monitored in Basilan Strait
This photo shows vessels of the Chinese Navy passing through the Zamboanga Peninsula.
Pitz Defense Analysis / X (formerly Twitter)

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it issued a "standard challenge" to vessels of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy which was seen traversing in Basilan and Zamboanga Peninsula.

According to state-media reports, the AFP monitored a training ship and an amphibious transport dock of the PLA Navy which passed through the Basilan Strait on Thursday.

“In accordance with standard operating procedure, the AFP dispatched BRP Domingo Deluana (PG-905) to shadow/monitor the passage of the two PLA Navy vessels. Our escorting vessel also issued a standard challenge to the Chinese warships,” the AFP said.

“One of the vessels, Qi Jiquang (BN-83) responded that it was conducting normal navigation from its last port of call in Dili, Timor Leste en route to Dalian, China,” it added.

In naval operations, a standard challenge is a method employed to identify unknown or approaching vessels, aircraft or individuals to ascertain whether they are friend or foe.

This method usually consists of a series of predefined actions and responses designed to ensure security and prevent unauthorized access.

A total of three naval vessels were observed passing through the said waters. 

The AFP also stated that the Basilan Strait is acknowledged as an international sea lane that permits the innocent passage of ships from different countries.

This has been first documented by a Facebook user on Wednesday which shows three “gray ships” traversing the Zamboanga Peninsula.

In the video, the Philippine Navy can be heard issuing a radio challenge on the vessel, asking its next port of call.

Another Facebook user also documented the passing of the same ships near Pilas Island in Basilan. 

However, in this video, the vessel were clearly identified as the Duludao-class dispatch ship Dong-Jiao 93 of the Chinese Navy was spotted.

The Chinese Embassy has yet to respond to Philstar.com's request for comment on the warships monitored.

China has a longstanding history of intruding into Philippine waters, including the West Philippine Sea, despite these areas being within its exclusive economic zone.

Despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s July 2016 ruling that nullifies China’s nine-dash line in the South China Sea, it still refused to accept the ruling and continued to patrol and maintain control over various features within the said region. 

On Tuesday,  the Philippine Navy challenged the Chinese Navy after it conducted illegal unilateral drills at the Escoda Shoal despite the presence of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

On Friday, the PCG also said that its Chinese counterpart, Chinese Coast Guard (CCG), blocked the medical evacuation of sick personnel of Philippine Navy stationed in BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin shoal.

The PCG said that the CCG vessel rammed the Philippine Navy Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat while transporting sick personnel. 

“The barbaric and inhumane behavior displayed by the China Coast Guard has no place in our society. What should have been a simple medical evacuation operation was subjected to harassment, with the excessive deployment of two China Coast Guard vessels (21551 and 21555), two small boats, and two rubber boats,” PCG Spokesman Rear Admiral Jay Tarriela said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

“Their actions clearly demonstrated their intention to prevent the sick personnel from receiving the proper medical attention he urgently needed,” he added.

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