Chinese militia ships spotted in Sabina Shoal, leave after PH Coast Guard challenge
MANILA—The government task force handling West Philippine Sea affairs on Tuesday denounced Chinese Coast Guard activities targeting Philippine Coast Guard ships in the Scarborough Shoal area in April.
Task force head and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said the "shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuvers and radio challenges" by the Chinese Coast Guard on vessels BRP Gabriela Silang and BRP Sindangan were a "violation of (Philippine) sovereignty."
According to the task force statement, those activities happened during "legitimate" patrols and maritime exercises in the vicinity of the Scarborough Shoal on April 24 and 25.
"We condemn in the strongest terms" those acts, Esperon said.
He emphasized that the Philippines remained keen to protect its "national interest, patrimony and our dignity as a people."
Esperon made the statement amid high tensions between Manila and Beijing over disputed waters in the South China Sea.
"The government is firm in its resolve to protect what is ours for the benefit of the Filipinos," he said.
"We reiterate our call to all nations and stakeholders to reconsider their actions, cooperate and comply with their international obligations."
The task force has said Chinese ships have been sighted in the West Philippine Sea since early March, defying instructions from Filipino officials to withdraw.
Esperon said that on April 27, PCG vessel BRP Cabra, with two other Filipino vessels, went to the Sabina Shoal situated west of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, and saw 7 Chinese maritime militia (CMMs) ships anchored in "stationary linear formation" in the area.
"The crew of BRP Cabra issued a series of challenges to the offending vessels but elicited no response from the CMMs. After around 20 minutes, however, the CMMs vessels dispersed and left the shoal after being challenged by BRP Cabra," he said.
According to the official, the Cabra returned to Sabina on April 29 and again saw 5 Chinese ships. They left as the Philippine Coast Guard vessel arrived.
Personnel from the PCG and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources have been conducting maritime drills in disputed waters in efforts to increase Filipino presence in the area.
"The NTF-WPS emphasizes that the maritime exercises and patrols routinely conducted by the PCG and BFAR are part of the maritime law enforcement activities of its member agencies in the exercise of Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights over our territorial seas and EEZ, respectively," Esperon said.
He said Beijing will impose a ban on Chinese fishing vessels "in the areas of the South China Sea north of the 12th parallel" from May 1 to August 16.
"This fishing ban does not apply to our fishermen and the NTF-WPS opposes China’s imposition of the same over the areas within the territory and jurisdiction of the Philippines. The NTF-WPS reiterates that our fisherfolk are encouraged to go out and fish in our waters in the WPS," Esperon said.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier tweeted: “China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… O…GET THE F*** OUT" as the foreign office protested China's illegal presence in the West Philippine Sea.
He later apologized for his statement.
In response, China on Tuesday told Locsin to mind his "basic manners."
Beijing does not recognize the 2016 ruling of an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, which junked its "historical" claims to almost the entire South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the disputed waters.