The Philippine Coast Guard confronts a Chinese warship in the South China Sea

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The Philippine Coast Guard confronts a Chinese warship in the South China Sea
A Philippine Coast Guard officer aboard the BRP Cabra observes a Chinese Navy warship near the Marie Louise Bank in the South China Sea, July 13, 2021.

The Philippine Coast Guard announced Monday that it had issued a challenge to a Chinese warship that had entered the country’s territorial waters in the South China Sea last week but had since sailed away.

The BRP Cabra was patrolling near Marie Louise Bank, about 147 nautical miles (87 kilometers) off the coast of El Nido, Palawan province, when it spotted the Chinese ship on July 13, according to the Coast Guard.

The incident occurred a day after the fifth anniversary of a landmark international arbitral ruling that affirmed Manila’s rights to its South China Sea territories and declared Beijing’s claims over the majority of the contested waterway to be baseless.

The Coast Guard spokesman, Commodore Armand Balilo, said in a statement that the “navy warship had the flag of the People’s Republic of China and was marked with Chinese characters.”

“BRP Cabra calmly raised a radio challenge while using radar to monitor the movement of the said ship,” Balilo said.

“The PCG vessel moved closer to see the activity of the Chinese Navy warship in our waters more clearly,” he said, using the acronym for the Philippine Coast Guard.

The Chinese warship, bow number 189, remained silent, forcing the Philippine Coast Guard ship to broadcast audible notifications and warnings using a Long-Range Acoustic Device.

After the Philippine Coast Guard ship continued its challenge, it broke its silence and sent a radio message.

“This is Chinese Navy warship 189, Philippine Coast Guard 4409. Please keep two nautical miles away from me, “the message said, according to the local coast guard.

Only then did the Chinese ship turn around and depart from Marie Louise Bank, according to Balilo, who added that the BRP Cabra followed to ensure that the foreign ship left the country’s exclusive economic zone.

According to the Philippine Coast Guard, the crew strictly adhered to the manual on enforcing rules within the EEZ.

“This is to ensure that we follow a rules-based and peaceful approach to safeguarding our democracy, and that the Philippines’ rights to protect its sovereignty are protected,” Balilo explained.

When BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, contacted officials in Manila, they did not respond immediately when asked if this was the first incident involving a Chinese-marked warship since a dispute over Chinese ships in the Philippine EEZ began in March, or why they waited nearly a week to release details about the incident at sea.

According to the Coast Guard, BRP Cabra chased away five Chinese and two Vietnamese ships that had been monitored in the country’s waters last month.

On April 27, it chased away seven Chinese ships from Sabina Shoal with the help of other ships, according to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. at the time. Within the EEZ, the shoal is 130 nautical miles (241 kilometers) west of Puerto Princesa in Palawan province.

Both the Philippines and China, as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan, have claims in the sea region in whole or in part. Although Indonesia does not consider itself a party to the South China Sea dispute, Beijing claims historic rights to parts of the sea that overlap Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

While President Rodrigo Duterte has stated that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruling in July 2016 clearly favored the Philippines, he has been hesitant to enforce it. Duterte has insisted that China is a friend who has been generous with economic assistance and anti-COVID19 vaccines.

His foreign and defense secretaries have stated that, despite friendly relations, the arbitral court ruling was final and became part of international law.

Meanwhile, the United States, Japan, Australia, and other countries have backed the Philippines, urging China to adhere to international norms and halt its expansionist moves in the South China Sea.

On Monday, the Chinese Embassy in Manila did not respond to a request for comment from BenarNews. Beijing’s foreign ministry dismissed the arbitration award last week as “nothing more than a piece of waste paper.”

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