MANILA — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Saturday said Chinese vessels are still lingering in Ayungin (Second Thomas) and Esconda (Sabina) shoals in the West Philippine Sea, but they are so far not concerned about it.
Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG's spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, earlier said around 30 Chinese vessels are still moored in the West Philippine Sea as of Wednesday — 26 in Sabina Shoal, while four were in Ayungin Shoal.
Ayungin Shoal is located some 100 nautical miles off Palawan but is also near Mischief Reef, an area in the West Philippine Sea reportedly occupied by China.
When asked if they were still moored in the areas, the official answered in the affirmative, basing this on their monitoring as of Friday.
“As of today, I haven’t received the data yet. But hopefully within today, makakakuha kami ng update how many maritime militia there [are] in Sabina and Ayungin shoals,” Tarriela said during a media forum in Quezon City.
“We can only ascertain that the Chinese coast guard maintains their presence,” he added.
The Coast Guard already submitted a report to the Department of Foreign Affairs about their presence, and whether another diplomatic protest would be filed is still up to them.
Tarriela, though, said he is concerned that the Chinese government continues to ignore the country’s diplomatic protests over their continuous presence in Philippine waters.
“We are alarmed not because of their presence. We are alarmed because they had been ignoring our protests that we filed two weeks ago,” he said.
The Coast Guard official said a Chinese vessel is one nautical mile from BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin.
Figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs show that as of Feb. 17, the Philippines has filed 76 diplomatic protests under the Marcos, Jr. administration, including on the recent laser pointing incident that was filed on Feb. 14.
China and the Philippines are at odds over the South China Sea, with Beijing claiming sovereignty over almost the entire area despite an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, China and Taiwan have overlapping claims to parts of the sea.