MANILA - The chief of the Philippine Navy revealed Wednesday that the warship the country just acquired from South Korea was shadowed by a Chinese vessel all the way from Taiwan Strait to Philippine territorial waters earlier this month but that there was no hostility.
Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad said BRP Conrado Yap, regarded by the Philippine Navy as its “most powerful ship” to date, was on its way to the Philippines between August 14 and 16 when bad weather caused it to pass Taiwanese waters, a route Philippine vessels don't normally take.
“We coordinated with them. 'Yun nga 'yung sinasabi namin, puwede namang magcoordinate eh (That's what we're saying, we can coordinate),” said Empedrad.
“So dumaan kami (we passed) from Taiwan to mainland China, we properly informed them that we are passing through.”
The Chinese frigate and a Taiwan Coast Guard ship shadowed BRP Conrado Yap as it made its way home, but the Chinese frigate continued to follow it until the waters off northern Luzon.
“Wala namang problema do'n (there's no problem) if they shadow you, wala namang (there's no) provocative o hostile act. They know our passage is innocent passage - tuloy-tuloy, maganda, nag-uusap pa nga sila eh (it was smooth, went well, they were even talking),” Empedrad said.
But the Chinese warship had to be told that it had already entered Philippine territorial waters upon reaching the area and was asked to leave.
“Minsan 'di siya sumasagot, minsan sumasagot (sometimes it answered, other times it didn't), probably because of the language barrier. Pero nung pumasok na tayo sa territorial sea natin, pumasok din siya, sinabihan siya ng navy ship (But when we entered our territorial sea and it also came in, our Navy ship had to say) that you are entering territorial waters. Umalis din naman siya (It left),” Empredrad said.
BRP Conrado Yap, a 32-year-old ship, docked at the Port of Manila last August 20.
The Philippines earlier protested the passage of Chinese warships through Sibutu Strait without prior clearance, and the swarm of 113 Chinese vessels around Filipino-occupied Pag-asa Island.
The Philippines then filed diplomatic protests against China over two incidents in disputed waters, President Rodrigo Duterte's chief security adviser had said.
Empedrad said he wants to recommend the defense attachés of the various countries to reiterate the Philippine government’s position that all foreign warships entering Philippine waters have to seek permission from the country's government.