Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ships drove away seven foreign ships believed to be manned by Chinese militias from the Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
PCG spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo said the incident happened on April 27 while their ships were conducting maritime patrol together with ships from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
The seven Chinese ships were seen anchored at the Sabina Shoal which is well-within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Sabina Shoal is located approximately 73 miles from Mapankal Point, Rizal, Palawan.
Balilo said the Coast Guard personnel from the BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409) communicated with them to announce that Sabina Shoal is part of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.
“This is PCG BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409). You are within Philippine exclusive economic zone. You are requested to provide the following: name of vessel, intention, last and next port of call on Channel 16,” Balilo said, citing the radio communication of the PCG with the Chinese vessels.
Unable to receive a response after three radio communications, the BRP Cabra (MVVR-4409), and the BFAR vessels MCS-3002, and MCS-3004 approached the Chinese vessels. It was then that Chinese vessels immediately lifted the anchor and operated the engine.
“Sinundan ng PCG at BFAR ang paglalayag ng mga barko para masigurong tuluyang aalis ang mga CMMV sa Sabina Shoal (PCG and BFAR followed the ships to ensure they left in the Sabina Shoal),” he added.
The PCG has stepped up its maritime patrol in the West Philippine Sea amid the aggressive presence of Chinese vessels in the disputed areas, which the Philippine’s EEZ.
Led by the Task Force Pagsasanay, the BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301) and BRP Sindangan (MRRV-4407) conducted training on navigation and patrol operations near the Bajo de Masinloc in Zambales.
The BRP Cabra, BRP Malapascua, and BFAR vessels have also done ship interoperability exercises since last week near the Pagasa Island which is within the territory of Palawan.
The PCG, in cooperation with the BFAR, said they are preparing for the second leg of the comprehensive maritime exercise that will be held in the Batanes Group of Islands and the Benham Rise.