MANILA – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel closely sailing by one of its ships in the disputed Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal.
In a statement on Sunday, the PCG described the March 2 incident as “close distance maneuvering” of the Chinese vessel as BRP Malabrigo was patrolling the disputed waters.
It was yet unclear whether the Philippines had lodged a diplomatic protest for the incident. The PCG said it had to wait for the go-signal from the country's National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea before making the incident public.
“Coast Guard personnel have monitored a CCG vessel with bow number 3305 that conducted a close distance maneuvering of approximately 21 yards towards BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402) while the said PCG vessel was sailing at the vicinity waters off Bajo de Masinloc,” the PCG said posted on its official social media account.
The PCG condemned the incident as a violation of the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at SEA (Colregs), since the Chinese vessel was too close for the Filipino ship to move.
PCG Commandant Artemio Abu said the incident was the fourth time their vessels had a close encounter with the Chinese Coast Guard in Scarborough Shoal.
The first three reported encounters were in May and June 2021 involving a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel and PCG ships BRP Capones and BRP Sindangan.
Abu said that the close encounters, as well as the behavior of the Chinese Coast Guard ships, “increased the risk of collision with four of our capital ships.”
He added that the PCG has since coordinated with the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea and the Department of Foreign Affairs to address the issue “through rules based and peaceful approaches.”
Abu noted that despite the close encounters, the PCG will continue patrolling the Scarborough Shoal to protect the Filipino fishermen whose livelihoods rely on the disputed waters.
“We will continue to work silently and diligently for we are serving Filipino fishermen at sea. As long as they feel safe seeing us during their fishing operations, we know that we are doing our job well,” he said.
The DFA and the Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to requests for comment by Reuters.
The Philippines asserts territorial jurisdiction over the Scarborough Shoal as it is within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), but it continues to be claimed by China. – With a Reuters report
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