‘China broke maritime laws’

‘China broke maritime laws’

THE Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Monday accused China of breaking maritime laws after a Chinese coast guard vessel flashed a military-grade laser at a PCG ship that temporarily blinded the Filipino crew last February 6 off Ayungin Shoal in the PCG spokesman Commodore Armand Balilo said the Chinese ship violated the regulations on dangerous maneuvers.

The Department of National Defense (DND) described the latest action by the Chinese coast guard as “offensive” and “unsafe.”

The PCG said the China Coast Guard vessel with bow number 5205 directed the laser light at the BRP Malapascua which was on a rotation and resupply (RoRe) mission for the Philippine Navy in Ayungin Shoal.

The Malapascua was 10 nautical miles (nm) from Ayungin when it detected the Chinese vessel 4 nm dead ahead, maneuvering from port to starboard side, the PCG said.

“The Chinese ship illuminated the green laser light twice toward BRP Malapascua, causing temporary blindness to her crew at the bridge. The Chinese vessel also made dangerous maneuvers by approaching about 150 yards from the vessel’s starboard quarter,” it said.

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The Malapascua shifted course from Ayungin and headed toward Lawak Island to support the BRP Teresa Magbanua which was on a RoRe mission to Coast Guard sub-stations in the Kalayaan Island Group.

The PCG said preventing the Philippine government ships from delivering food and supplies to 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.”

Balilo said the crew of Malapascua will have a medical checkup to determine if the laser will have any long-term effect on them.

In a similar incident last August, a Chinese coast guard ship also prevented PCG ships providing security to a Philippine Navy resupply mission from approaching Ayungin Shoal.

The crew of the Chinese vessel removed the cover of her 70 mm naval gun when the Teresa Magbanua was 2.5 nm from Ayungin.

The Chinese coast guard ship, together with the two Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) and CCG 5102, formed a 13 nm-radius blockade around the BRP Sierra Madre to prevent the Philippine Marines stationed there from being resupplied.

The Philippine military deliberately beached the Sierra Madre on Ayungin, some 196 kilometers from Palawan, in response to China’s illegal occupation of Mischief Reef.

The Chinese coast guard ships “even deployed their utility boats to support the blockade,” the PCG said.

Despite the incident, the PCG “will continue to exercise due diligence in protecting the country’s territorial integrity against foreign aggression,” PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu said.

Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Cheloy Garafil said in a text message on Monday Malacañang stands by the PCG’s account of the incident.

During the state visit of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to China at the start of the year, the Philippine and Chinese governments agreed to set up a direct communications channel to address all issues related to the South China Sea.

Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros called on Malacañang to summon the Chinese ambassador to Manila to explain the latest incident in the West Philippine Sea.

Hontiveros said Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian must “relay to his government that we will not tolerate any further disrespect.”

The Chinese embassy has not commented on the PCG’s account.

Sen. Francis Joseph “Chiz” Escudero said in a text message the incident should be referred to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) “who can, among others, summon the Chinese Ambassador or file a diplomatic protest.”

Hontiveros also said the President “should not rush to accept the expanded coverage of the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States).”

If China wants to show true leadership of the region it should act responsibly, and restrain any behavior that might further “inflame” tension in the South China Sea, she said.

“Tensions are already high, but what is China doing instead? She is only getting more brazen by the day,” the senator said in a statement on Monday.

She reiterated her call for Malacañang and the DFA to meet with other claimant countries as well as member-states of the “quad” — made up of Australia, India, Japan and the US — to ensure that peace “is upheld in our waters.”

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


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