The Philippine Coast Guard reported the presence of Chinese vessels around Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea on Saturday.
The PCG personnel stationed on Pag-asa Island spotted a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA) Navy vessel, China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel 5201, and 42 suspected Chinese maritime militia (CMM) ships anchored near the island.
The ships are estimated to be 4.5 to 8 nautical miles from Pag-asa Island, clearly inside the land feature’s 12-nautical-mile territorial sea.
“The PLA Navy vessel and CCG 5201 have been observed to be slowly loitering within the surrounding waters of Pag-asa Island with a distance of 8 NM and 4 NM, respectively,” the Philippine Coast Guard said.
Meanwhile, 14 suspected CMM vessels are anchored within the vicinity of Pag-asa Cay 3 with an estimated distance of 4 NM west of Pag-asa Island, while the other 28 suspected CMM Vessels are monitored to be within the area of Pag-asa Cay 4.
Pag-asa Island is the largest island in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) serving as the seat of the local government of the Municipality of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan.
It is estimated that more than 400 civilian locals – including some 70 children – call the island home together with stationed military, law enforcement, and civilian government personnel.
Based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award, the observed location of the Chinese vessels fall squarely within Pag-asa Island's 12 NM territorial sea. Their continuing unauthorized presence is clearly inconsistent with the right of innocent passage and a blatant violation of the Philippines' territorial integrity.