In a latest flex of its muscle in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), two China Coast Guard (CCG) ships and two Chinese maritime militia vessels sailed close to a Philippine Navy (PN) ship near Panganiban (Mischief) Reef to try intercepting its patrol operations, authorities confirmed Saturday, Feb. 4.
Offshore patrol ship BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS-17) was conducting a patrol and search mission as it was circumnavigating Recto (Reed) Bank when it was “monitored and tailed” by CCG vessels with bow numbers 5204 and 5304, and maritime militia boats Qiong Sansha Yu 0001 and Qiong Lin Yu 19002 near Panganiban Reef. Both Panganiban Reef and Recto Bank are located within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“The Chinese maritime militia ‘fishing vessels / boats’ even conducted an intercept course towards the Philippine Navy warship,” Commodore Armando Balilo, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson, said.
The incident occurred last Feb. 1, according to Raymond Powell, head of Project Myoushu Team of Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation of Stanford University, just as United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III visited the Philippines to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to support Manila amid China’s aggression in WPS.
Balilo noted that based on an incident report they have received, the BRP Andres Bonifacio stood its ground and continued its patrol in the WPS despite the tailing and monitoring of the Chinese vessels.
Powell said PCG’s Parola-class vessel BRP Malapascua (MRRV-4403) has been monitored in the area after BRP Andres Bonifacio left and completed its mission. The PCG has yet to confirm the said deployment.
For its part, the Navy has yet to issue a statement on the incident.