Authorities drove away a Vietnamese fishing vessel after spotting it near the Tubbataha Reef natural park in Palawan on Friday night, the military said Saturday.

The 50- to 60-tonner vessel was observed to be flying a Philippine flag when it was spotted at the reef’s vicinity around 10 p.m., Armed Forces Western Command spokeswoman 1Lt. Cherryl Tindog said, citing a report from the Tubbataha Management Office.

“Accordingly, pinaalis din agad po ng mga park rangers natin doon… Nagkaroon ng pursuit up to 2 nautical miles northeast of the park’s boundaries pero di na tinuloy ang paghabol dahil masama ang kundisyon ng dagat that time,” Tindog said in a text message.

Some of the park rangers are Navy personnel, she added.

Members of the Naval Forces West were sent to the reef Saturday to get more information on the Vietnamese vessel, Tindog said.

It was the third time for a foreign vessel to be spotted at the Tubbataha Reef this year.

On April 8, a Chinese fishing vessel ran aground at the reef and was discovered to be carrying hundreds of dead pangolins.

On Jan. 17, the US Navy minesweeper USS Guardian also ran aground at the reef and was removed only after a month. (John Roson)

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