A Chinese warship had showed its “hostile intent” after pointing a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in February, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Thursday.
The incident was the subject of diplomatic protests Manila sent Beijing on Wednesday.
On February 17, Philippine vessel BRP Conrado Yap (PS39) was bound to Rizal Reef Detachment in the West Philippine Sea when it detected “a radar contact of a gray colored vessel,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command said, tasked to protect the country’s sovereignty in the disputed sea.
The West Philippine Sea is the country’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety.
The crew of the Philippine Navy corvette BRP Conrado Yap identified it as a People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLAN) corvette with bow number 514.
The PLAN is the navy of the People’s Republic of China.
“This hostile act on the part of Chinese government and encroachment within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone is perceived as a clear violation of international law and Philippine sovereignty,” said AFP Wescom chief Vice Admiral Rene Medina.
The BRP Conrado Yap was on its third day of territorial defense operations and sovereignty patrol in the area of the Malampaya Natural Gas facility and the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) off Palawan when it detected a “radar contact” of a gray vessel – a warship – in its vicinity.
The BRP Conrado Yap then issued a radio warning, to which the gray vessel responded, “The Chinese government has [immutable] sovereignty over the South China Sea, its islands and its adjacent waters.”
“While PS39 does not have the electronic support measures to confirm that PLAN Gun Control Director was directed towards her, visual identification confirms this hostile intent,” the WesCom said in a statement.
“This hostile act on the part of [the] Chinese government and encroachment within the Philippines’ EEZ is perceived as a clear violation of international law and Philippine sovereignty,” the statement read.
“PS39 again challenged the vessel and then instructed to proceed directly to its next destination. That vessel repeated its response and maintained her course and speed,” it added.
According to the statement, both vessels continued their respective voyage after the incident, which vowed to “never be intimidated nor let our guards down in protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the Philippines.”
The statement said that it would “support any future capability upgrade of our ships patrolling our Philippine waters.”
Beijing claims nearly all of the resource-rich South China Sea and has rejected a UN-backed international tribunal ruling that favored the Philippines and invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the disputed waters.
It has continued expansion in the South China Sea, recently establishing two administrative districts in the waters, even as the world was focused on responding to a pandemic of the coronavirus disease, which came from one of its cities./Stacy Ang