Tag Archive: intrusion

Taiwan's cutter 118 (photo from Taiwan Coast Guard website)

Taiwan’s cutter 118 (photo from Taiwan Coast Guard website)

A Taiwan Coast Guard ship launched speedboats and threatened to shoot a Philippine patrol vessel during their standoff over an apprehended fishing boat in waters near Batanes last week, a security official said Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed the incident as the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) confirmed the standoff.

“There came a point na ang sabi nila (Taiwan Coast Guard), ‘Stop, or we will shoot you. Release the boat,'” said the official, who asked not to be named because of the issue’s sensitivity.

That incident occurred inside the “contiguous zone” of the Philippines, the official said.

Earlier Wednesday, PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo confirmed the standoff, saying it occurred 18 nautical miles northeast of Batanes last May 25.

MCS vessels of BFAR. (photo from the Philippines' Official Gazette website)

MCS vessels of BFAR. (photo from the Philippines’ Official Gazette website)

It involved PCG members on a Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ (BFAR) and the Taiwan Coast Guard cutter number 118, he said.

The standoff began when Coast Guard personnel apprehended the Taiwanese fishing boat Min Jiang Tsai 6 around 6:25 p.m., Balilo said.

“The PCG was towing the fishing boat when Taiwan Coast Guard cutter 118 appeared and blocked the BFAR vessel and asked for the release of the fishing boat,” Balilo said.

Members of the PCG later released the fishing boat as per instruction by BFAR officers, after “four hours of negotiation” with the Taiwan Coast Guard cutter’s crew, he said.

The source, for his part, said things did not go as smoothly because Taiwan’s Coast Guard made several aggressive attempts to have the fishing boat released.

The cutter, according to the official, launched two speedboats in an apparent attempt to board the fishing boat and wrest it from Filipino law enforcers.

A BFAR MCS vessel docks side by side with a Navy patrol boat in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, one of the staging points of patrols to Batanes (May 2014 photo)

A BFAR MCS vessel docks side by side with a Navy patrol boat in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, one of the staging points of patrols to Batanes (May 2014 photo)

Taiwan’s ship also suddenly “cut” the path of the BFAR MCS-3004 vessel, risking a collision, he said.

A collision would have proven dangerous for the MCS-3004, which is only about 30 meters long as compared to the 63.5-meter Taiwanese cutter, according to the source.

That prompted the MCS-3004 to maneuver away and it went on sailing with the fishing boat in tow, until the cutter made the threat to shoot, the source said.

Only two Philippine Coast Guard members on the vessel had firearms at the time while the cutter, because of its size, is believed to be packing heavy weapons.

“They were outnumbered, outgunned, overpowered… Considering their predicament, ni-release na lang ‘yung fishing boat instead na may mapahamak,” the official said.

The source, meanwhile, revealed that a second incident involving another Taiwan Coast Guard ship occurred on May 28.

This occurred some 12 nautical miles from Batanes’ northernmost Amianan Island which is well within Philippine territory, he said.

The Taiwan Coast Guard ship appeared after PCG personnel drove away another Taiwanese fishing vessel, the source said.

Jovita Ayson, director of BFAR Region 2, said her office is now preparing reports on the incidents and will submit these to BFAR administrator Asis Perez.

Perez, in a text message, said he is out of the country and is still waiting for the reports.

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard and BFAR will continue patrolling waters off Batanes despite the incidents to “deter” foreign poachers, Ayson said. (John Roson)

– end –

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)

– end –

Photo released by the AFP Western Command last November shows some of the Filipino troops on board the grounded BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as their detachment at Ayungin Shoal. The troops were waving goodbye to then Wescom chief Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, who visited the nine Philippine-occupied territories in the Spratly Islands last November, before he retired last April.

Photo released by the AFP Western Command last November shows some of the Filipino troops on board the grounded BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as their detachment at Ayungin Shoal. The troops were waving goodbye to then Wescom chief Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, who visited the nine Philippine-occupied territories in the Spratly Islands last November, before he retired last April.

The Philippines will not pull out its troops from Ayungin Shoal despite the presence of a Chinese warship and will fight to the last man, if the situation worsens, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Thursday.

In a press briefing, Gazmin said China still has two Chinese Maritime Surveillance (CMS) ships and a navy frigate at the shoal as of Wednesday, apparently to scare Philippine troops.

“Maaring ganoon ang message nila, eh tayo naman up to the last soldier standing, we will fight for what is ours,” the defense chief said.

Asked if the government was considering pulling out the troops from Ayungin, Gazmin said: “Hindi, atin ‘yan eh. Kasama nga ‘yan ng ating continental shelf, bakit tayo aalis?”

Resupply still on

The military has even scheduled a resupply mission for troops who are stationed at the shoal, he said.

“Wala naman tayong problema. Wala pa tayong problema, ibig sabihin. We are due for replenishment and rotation of troops, gagawin natin yan dahil ito, dati naman nating ginagawa, ito ay routinary, at ang nagdadala niyan ay isang navy ship na unarmed. Ito eh logistics vessel, so i don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Gazmin said.

“As far as we’re concerned, hindi disputed ‘yan, atin ‘yan eh,” he said, stressing that Ayungin is only 110 to 120 nautical miles away from Rizal, Palawan.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides countries with a 200-nautical mile “exclusive economic zone.”

Aside from the frigate and CMS ships, China had also sent at least 10 fishing vessels and dinghies to the shoal.

‘Clear intrusion’

But what was glaring, according to Gazmin, was the deployment of a military ship.

“Maliwanag na intrusion ‘yan, violation ‘yan, dahil hindi na ‘yan civilian ship, kumbaga sumobra na ‘yung kanyang violation, pumasok na siya sa ating territory,” he said.

Photographs of the Chinese ships, taken by Philippine military airplanes, have been sent to the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is in charge of filing diplomatic protests.

“There are ways of doing it, right now we are doing it legally,” Gazmin said. (John Roson)

– end –

Fort San Felipe, Cavite City – Chinese are fishing at Ayungin shoal, one of the Philippines’ territories in the Spratly Islands, “escorted” by a vessel of their navy, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said today.

“Nangingisda sila sa loob ng teritoryo natin,” Gazmin told reporters after attending the Philippine Navy anniversary rites here.

“Mayroon silang flag, Chinese,” the defense chief said.

Gazmin said the Philippines will deal with the issue “calmly,” by filing a diplomatic protest through the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“Gagawin natin sa mahinahong paraan, para hindi tayo mukhang naghahamon,” he said. (John Roson)

– end –

The Philippine Coast Guard on Friday said it fired upon one of four Taiwanese fishing vessels that entered the country’s territorial waters, leaving one fisherman dead.

Coast Guard commandant Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena said the shooting occurred around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, while a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel (MCS 3001) operated by PCG personnel was patrolling the Balintang Channel off Batanes.

The PCG personnel encountered four foreign fishing vessels within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and tried to board one of them, but another “repeatedly tried to ram our MCS,” Isorena said in a statement.

He said this prompted the Coast Guard personnel on board the MCS to fire “warning shots” and later on, shoot the vessel’s machinery portion “to disable” it.

“While the maneuver is happening, our MCS detected the presence of unidentified grey and white ships, forcing them to withdraw and return back to port,” Isorena said.

He said the personnel on board the MCS were not able to immediately verify what happened to the fishing vessel, and the PCG only learned Friday that one of the Taiwanese fishermen died.

Isorena said that while the PCG considers the incident as “very unfortunate,” more effort will be done to secure the country’s waters.

“Efforts will be instituted to prevent similar occurrences. The government will increase our visibility in the area to prevent future incursion of our waters,” the PCG chief said.

“We sympathize with the family of the fisherman who died and we assure them of a transparent and impartial investigation. The PCG will relieve all personnel on board MCS 3001 of their duties while the investigation is ongoing,” he added.

Earlier, China’s state-owned Xinhua News Agency earlier reported that a Filipino “military ship” opened fire on a Taiwanese fishing boat on Thursday, about 180 nautical miles southeast of Erluanbi, the southernmost tip of Taiwan.

“After killing the fisherman, the Filipino military ship continued to chase and fire in bursts at the Taiwanese vessel,” Xinhua said, citing information from Taiwan’s fishing authority and media.

Maj. Ramon Zagala, chief of the Armed Forces’ public affairs office, said that contrary to the report, the incident involved a “Coast Guard-controlled” BFAR vessel.

Zagala, however, said the incident occurred within the Philippines’ “territorial waters.”

“Since the incident occurred within our territorial waters, it is therefore within the jurisdiction of our coast guard,” Zagala said in a statement.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, the Navy’s spokesman for issues in the West Philippine Sea, also denied Xinhua’s report.

Commodore Nodolfo Tejada, commander of the Naval Forces Northern Luzon, reported Thursday night that all Navy vessels under his command were in ports in Subic or Sual, Pangasinan, Arevalo said. (John Roson)

– end –

Giant clams and some of the live sharks found on the Chinese fishing boats (Photo courtesy of Philippine Navy)

(Updated) Tension at the Scarborough Shoal decreased as six of the remaining Chinese vessels pulled out on Friday night, bringing along their “harvest” of marine life caught in Philippine waters, officials said.

Five Chinese fishing vessels and a Chinese fisheries law enforcement “command vessel” left the Scarborough Shoal between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara, commander of the Armed Forces Northern Luzon Command, said in a phone interview.

“Apparently the pullouts were the result of the negotiation by our foreign department with its Chinese counterpart,” Alcantara said.

On Friday noon, seven Chinese fishing vessels and the Zhungguo Haijan 75 marine survey vessel left the disputed area.

‘Illegal harvest’ off to China

In a statement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said he

Some of the Chinese nationals aboard the boats (photo courtesy of AFP Northern Luzon Command)

told Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing Friday night that the Philippines will allow the fishing vessels to return to China in exchange for confiscating their “illegal harvest.”

However, “no clear agreement” was reached as Ma asserted that Chinese authorities will inspect the vessels, according to Del Rosario.

“We had later learned that the Chinese fishing vessels had left the lagoon, a development which we had been working towards, except for our not being able to confiscate their illegal harvest pursuant to the Fisheries Code, which was regrettable,” he said.

“The meeting with Ambassador Ma last night resulted in a stalemate as we had demanded of one another that the other nation’s ship be first to leave the area,” Del Rosario added.

On Wednesday, Navy chief Vice Adm. Alexander Pama said the warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar stopped eight Chinese fishing vessels at the shoal Tuesday and found on some of them various corals, giant clams, and live sharks illegally caught in Philippine waters.

The number of Chinese surveillance vessels in and around the shoal eventually increased to four on Thursday, but only the two that blocked the shoal’s mouth remained the next day, Armed Forces chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa said on Friday.

The number of fishing vessels was confirmed to be 12 on Thursday, but only five were left on Friday, he said.

Coast Guard one-on-one with Chinese ship

Still in Scarborough Shoal, however, are the Philippine Coast Guard’s SARV-003 vessel, which replaced the Gregorio del Pilar, and the Chinese marine survey vessel number 84.

“Paghahandaan natin ‘yung susunod na incursion nila… hindi natin masasabing hindi na uulit ‘yun, paghahandaan natin ‘yung susunod,” Alcantara said.

The ships sent by the Navy earlier are presently replenishing their supplies, he added.

Dellosa revealed that amid the standoff, a Navy “peacock” gunship was posted some 14 kilometers away from the shoal while the Gregorio del Pilar was stationed “nearby.”

2nd warship to arrive this year

Due to the standoff and other incidents of intrusion into Philippine waters, the Department of National Defense and AFP are speeding up the acquisition of a second warship, according to Dellosa.

“Under negotiation na ‘yung Hamilton-Dallas, basta within this year dadating na ‘yan,” he said.

“We need more naval assets and aircraft to prevent ‘yung mga intrusion,” the AFP chief added.

Scarborough Shoal, claimed by both China and the Philippines, is located only 124 nautical miles from the shores of Zambales and is called Panatag Shoal by Manila. (John Roson)

– end –

Three Chinese Navy ships were spotted near a Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea last month, the Philippine Navy confirmed Sunday.

Vice Admiral Alexander Pama, Philippine Navy chief, confirmed the spotting after the Department of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying it has already protested the Chinese Navy’s actions.

“Parang medyo sinubukan na i-challenge (nung ships ‘yung Navy units sa area) pero kumaripas din, umalis kaagad, then the following day bumalik,” Pama told reporters by phone.

Lieutenant Col. Omar Tonsay, Navy spokesman, said two Chinese naval vessels were spotted by monitoring operatives about 3.7 kilometers from their position at the Sabina Shoal on December 11.

Sabina Shoal, now called Escoda Shoal by the government, is approximately 113 kilometers northwest off Palawan and is within the Philippines 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

The ships were moving northward then dissapeared an our later, Tonsay said.

“The next day, another Chinese naval vessel was spotted in the same area moving northwards. As with the other two vessels, the ship flew a Chinese flag over her mast and had guns [at] her bow,” he said.

“The vessels were apparently surveying the area,” Tonsay added.

Pama said no untoward incident happened between the foreign ships and the local Navy personnel in the area, and that patrols will be maintained.

“Ganun ang nangyayari dun, (it’s a game of) cat and mouse,” he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it conveyed on January 5 its “serious concerns” over the incidents to the Chinese Embassy’s Charge d’affaires.

“These instrusions of the Chinese are clear violations of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea as well as the provision of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a statement posted at the department’s website.

Last March, Chinese navy vessels reportedly “told off” a Philippine oil exploration team at the Reed Bank basin – now known as Recto Bank – off Palawan.

A Chinese maritime survey ship was spotted unloading tide-measuring poles at the Amy Douglas Shoal-Iroquois Reef, which is near Philippine-occupied islands, on May 21 and 24 while Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie was on a visit to Manila. (John Roson)

– end –

Navy sorry for hitting Chinese boat

The Philippine Navy apologized to China after one of its patrol gunboats collided with a Chinese boat in the West Philippine Sea, Defense Department spokesman Zosimo Jesus Paredes said.

“We apologized for the collision, dun tayo nag-aapologize, hindi ‘yung sa ginawa nating trabaho na sitahin sila,” Paredes said in a phone interview.

The Navy sent a report of the incident to the China Embassy in Manila, along with the apology, he said.

According to Paredes, the Navy gunboat PS-74 was conducting “sovereign patrols” at Recto Bank on Tuesday morning when it spotted and called the attention of a Chinese fishing vessel that was towing 32 dinghies.

Seeing the Navy ship, the fishing vessel fled and left the dinghies, one of which the gunboat hit, he said.

“Strictly speaking, this is an intrusion because they were in Philippine waters, but because it’s a fishing vessel, we will investigate whether they intentionally or unintentionally entered,” Paredes said.

It was not the first time for Filipino and Chinese ships to encounter each other in Recto Bank, formerly called Reed Bank and is said to be rich in oil deposits.

Last March, a Chinese Navy ship shooed away a Department of Energy research ship that was conducting a seismic study in the area.

The Chinese ship left when OV-10 bomber planes sent by the Armed Forces arrived, after the DOE vessel sent a distress call. (John Roson)

– end –