(DAILY TRIBUNE) The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Tuesday said the recent unusual “dangerous maneuvers” of a Chinese warship against the Philippine Navy vessel could have led to a fatal collision, describing it as “irresponsible and unprofessional”
In a chance interview, AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said they did not anticipate that China’s vessel would cross the bow of the country’s ship.
“Actually based on the report, the shadowing is a usual occurrence already, but the crossing of the bow is something new, so in a way, that is an innovation they have been doing,” Aguilar told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.
Aguilar noted that the People’s Liberation Army-Navy ship 621 of China has recently shadowed the Philippine Navy’s BRP Benguet at a distance of 80 yards while was at 5.8 nautical miles southwest of Pag-asa Island en route to Rizal Reef for a regular rotation and resupply mission last 13 October.
China’s warship also attempted to cross its bow at the closest point of approach at 350 yards, he added.
The bow of a ship refers to the forward part of the hull—the way the vessel moves through the water—and it reduces the resistance of the hull as it cuts through the water while also ensuring that water does not easily wash over the deck.
Aguilar lamented that China’s claims of the features lying in the West Philippine Sea “can no longer be subjected to a debate.”
“If we focus our discussion on what happened during the RoRe mission, it is very clear, first, they shadowed our vessel to as close as 80 yards. Second, they tried to cross the bow of our ship, which could lead to an accident; so how do you describe those actions? For us it is, these actions are irresponsible and unprofessional,” Aguilar said.
Amid the Chinese increasing aggression to assert its “expansive claims” over the South China Sea, which overlaps the country’s exclusive economic zone in the WPS.
Aguilar said the AFP still supports the government’s stand to “ pursue peaceful means in resolving conflict.”
“What we do, in the armed forces, is to provide them with information that we get from our maritime patrols and, at the same time, to show our firm resolve that we are ready to protect our, what is ours,” he added.
During the incident, Aguilar noted that the Philippine Navy’s BRP Benguet issued consecutive radio challenges against the Chinese warship.
China, however, responded “using their so-called and patently baseless 10-dash line narrative,” he said.
The 2016 Arbitral Award effectively invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the SCS.
“There is an international [order], there is a convention, a regulation that is supposed to be followed by every navigator to prevent collision at sea—which is very dangerous,” Aguilar noted.
China’s actions ‘matter of great concern’
Meanwhile, Senator Jinggoy Estrada said the recent shadowing and obstruction of the Philippine vessel en route to a resupply mission by a Chinese ship is a “matter of great concern.”
“It highlights the ongoing challenges and complexities that our nation faces in this region,” Estrada added.
“We must continue to uphold our rights, protect our territories, and assert our sovereignty through peaceful and legal means,” he added.
In a Senate hearing Tuesday, Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito urged the government to fund the re-fleeting program of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to “protect and support Filipino fishermen” in the WPS.
“I think it is very important. We cannot just let the militia vessels of China take advantage of our exclusive economic zone. I think our fishermen should be the ones taking advantage of the vast marine resources in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
Ejercito, likewise, said there’s a need to give BFAR additional funds to buy additional multi-mission and patrol vessels that could effectively assist local fishermen.
BFAR Director Demosthenes Escoto said the bureau currently has four multi-mission vessels and 14 monitoring, control, and surveillance patrol vessels being used to supply food, and gasoline as well as to rescue fishermen during calamities and other untoward incidents.