Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed on Monday, March 29, that the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ships that were sent to the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea were asked to leave by the the crew of the Chinese vessels who insisted that the area is part of China’s territory.
“There was no physical confrontation but there were warnings. They warned us ‘do not come here.’ But we responded that we are patrolling our area. It’s just a standard exchange,” Lorenzana said in a television interview over CNN Philippines.
The seemingly hostile behavior of the vessels contradicted the claim of Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian that the “fishing boats” were only seeking refuge in the reef due to rough sea conditions.
Last week, the Philippine government sent Navy and Coast Guard ships at the Julian Felipe Reef after confirmed reports that there were more than 200 Chinese vessels reportedly manne dby Chinese militias that were moored in the area. The Julian Felipe Reef is just 170 nautical miles from Bataraza, Palawan.
The Philippine government demanded that the Chinese vessels leave but China said the presence of their vessels there is just part of the safety measure amid the rough sea conditions.
Lorenzana said the Chinese vessels warned the Navy and PCG personnel when both sides established radio contact.
Ship to ship marine communication is a standard procedure between vessels to determine important information about each other, according to Lorenzana.
Lorenzana said that the sea condition in the West Philippine Sea was generally fair as revealed in the patrol missions of the Navy and Coast Guard.
“The area there inside the reef is calm, according to the Coast Guard, and we will take their words for it. But we will verify what [the vessels] were actually doing there,” he noted.