PCG backtracks, says report still unverified
MANILA (UPDATED) - Two Chinese Coast Guard vessels and two Chinese Maritime Militia "fishing vessels/boats" shadowed a Philippine warship near Mischief Reef in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine Coast Guard reported.
PCG spokesman Commodore Armand Balilo said in a message the Philippine Navy warship BRP Andres Bonifacio ( PS-17 ) was “monitored and tailed” by the Chinese vessels while the former was conducting a “patrol and search mission” within the Philippines’ 200 nautical mile exclusive zone.
According to Balilo, the “Chinese Maritime Militia fishing vessels/boats even conducted an intercept course towards the Philippine Navy warship.”
However on Monday, PCG said that upon verification, the incident report originated from a tweet of American defense and security expert Ray Powell.
"Hence, as of 06 February 2023, the PCG communicates that the said incident report is unverified," PCG added.
In 2016, the international arbitral tribunal ruled that China’s “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea was invalid and that it does not have historic rights over the disputed area.
China, however, continues to disregard the ruling. More vessels affiliated with China continue to appear off the Philippines’ west coast, increasing tension between the two countries.
Chinese ships cruising in the disputed region have often been reported shadowing, intercepting, or harassing Philippine fishing vessels.
Commander Ariel Coloma, chief PAO of WESCOM, said that navy vessels are doing regular patrols in the WPS as mandated.
“Our vessels are actually conducting regular sovereignty and maritime patrols in the WPS. The presence of PN and PCG vessels right now in those areas is part of their mandated tasks. As regards activity or mission of BRP Malapascua, may I refer you to the PCG," he said.
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