Military: 5 more Chinese warships sailed in PH waters without informing Manila

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 14 2019 10:09 PM | Updated as of Aug 14 2019 11:39 PM

Courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Mindanao Command

Courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Mindanao Command

Courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Mindanao Command

Courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Mindanao Command

Courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Mindanao Command

MANILA (UPDATED) —Five more Chinese warships passed through Philippine waters without informing the country's authorities, officials said Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Mindanao Command, said that 2 such warships were seen along the Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi in July while 3 were spotted this month. 

“Warship in general term, reconnaissance, basta armed ’yun, armed,” Sobejana said, describing the kind of warships they spotted.

He said the Western Mindanao Command used its air and naval assets to approach the Chinese warships. 

“Since nakita ’yung presence natin agad naman silang umiwas, lumalabas sa teritorya ng ating bansa,” Sobejana said.

While the warships were not perceivably hostile, Sobejana said their movement could also not be considered innocent passage. 

“Ang innocent passage, kasi, following the sea lanes of communications, straight line,” he said. 

“Pagka medyo nag-korba ka, that is no longer considered as innocent passage."

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, any foreign vessel may be allowed to cross a coastal state’s territorial waters without notifying the coastal state if they are conducting innocent passage, or movement in a straight path heading back out to sea, essentially just passing through.

However, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the Philippines has always required passing navies to seek diplomatic clearance from the Philippine government when they are passing through, and that historically the world’s navies have followed this protocol until now.

“Since these are warships, their entry to our territory should be coordinated. So we informed the national leadership para sa ganu’n they can engage with their counterparts sa Department of Foreign Affairs o sa mga attachés d’yan sa Manila,” said Sobejana.

Lorenzana revealed last July that Chinese warships passed through Sibutu Strait in “4 instances” that began early this year without informing the Philippine government.