3 Chinese survey ships monitored in eastern PH Sea

A map image uploaded by maritime security expert Ray Powell on Sept. 15, 2023 shows the movements of Chinese survey ships in the eastern seaboard of the Philippine Sea. (Courtesy of Powell / X)

At least three survey ships from China are monitored in the eastern seaboard of the Philippine Sea, a map image released by a maritime security expert showed on Friday, Sept. 15.

Ray Powell, project director at Stanford University's Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation, identified the vessels as “Haiyang Dizhi 12 Hao”, “Haiyang Dizhi Jiuhao”, and “Song Hang”.

Based on a map image that tracks the movement of the vessels, the survey ships were located near the Philippine Rise, an underwater plateau in the northeastern seaboard of the country which is believed to be rich in oil, gas, and marine resources.

“China currently has three research/survey ships active in the Philippine Sea (in international waters). A fourth – the Xiang Yang Hong 06 – recently returned to the mainland,” Powell said in a tweet on “X” (formerly Twitter).

“All three are still in the Philippine Sea, but well east of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (closer to Guam, actually),” he said in a separate message to the Manila Bulletin.

Prior to this, National Security Council (NSC) Deputy Director General Jonathan Malaya said that Chinese research vessels were reportedly roaming in the eastern seaboard of the Philippine Sea. This was aside from the bulk of Chinese coast guard, navy, and maritime militia vessels scattered around the West Philippine Sea.

“We also need to monitor the eastern side, our Philippine Rise. We have received reports that research vessels from China are roaming around the eastern side of the Philippine Sea,” Malaya, who is also the spokesperson of the National Task Force for West Philippine Sea, said in a radio interview over dzBB on Thursday, Sept. 14.

A separate confirmation to the Manila Bulletin was made by Col. Medel Aguilar, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP): “We have received reports about that.”

Aguilar said the AFP will support the actions that will be taken by the NTF-WPS after the monitoring of the survey vessels near the Philippine Rise.

This was not the first time that Chinese research vessels are monitored in the eastern portion of the Philippine Sea.

In 2019, Chinese oceanographic survey vessel “Zhanjian” reportedly sailed and operated in the eastern seaboard of the Philippine Sea twice.

Meanwhile, Chinese survey ship “Jia Geng” was monitored by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) at 80 nautical miles off the east coast of Philippine Sea in 2020 and near Catanduanes Island in 2021.

Relatedly, Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for West Philippine Sea, reiterated that the PCG remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the country’s coastline as well as the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“The disputes in the South China Sea should not be framed solely as a competition between powerful nations, as this denies us our independence and disregards our legitimate interests. The Filipino people can rest assured that the PCG is resolute in our commitment to safeguarding our Exclusive Economic Zone,” he said.

“Despite any limitations we may encounter, we are unwavering in our determination to patrol and protect our waters with the assets available to us,” he added.