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Palace sees no intrusion

Despite Chinese ship’s  entry in Kalayaan isle Malacanang confirmed on Thursday that a Chinese ship entered Philippine territory early this week, but denied that it was an “intrusion” into the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Military sources said on Wednesday that the ship, which was “large” and “bearing Chinese markings” as described by fishermen,  was seen dumping construction materials in one of the islets in the Kalayaan Island Group near Palawan. The KIG is part of the Spratlys, one of three major islands being contested by China, the Philippines,  Malaysia, Vietnam Brunei and Taiwan. Valte, however, said that the ship was not a landing ship tank but a fishing vessel, as confirmed by the National Defense Department. “The Department of National Defense has verified the report and the alleged landing type vessel supposedly unloading plywood is actually a fishing vessel with ‘paways’ or smaller boats,” she said. But when asked to reconcile her admission that there was indeed a Chinese fishing vessel in the area, while saying that its presence could not be considered as an “intrusion,” Valte instead said the Palace was only  adopting the statement of the Foreign Affairs Department,  which claimed that the fishing vessel did not “intrude” into Philippine territory. Foreign Affairs, however, apparently had a different view about the incident compared to its position on the Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal. Chinese fishermen had “intruded” and were caught poaching in the Shoal in April, sparking a standoff when Chinese maritime officials prevented Philippine authorities from arresting the Chinese fishermen.  The DFA had protested the Chinese action,  and the recent moves by Beijing, including  the establishment of Sansha City in June to ‘administer’ the activities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). To date, the Chinese continues to “intrude” into the shoal,  as at least three Chinese maritime vessels had remained in the area,  apparently to prevent local fishermen from fishing I the area. Manila Standard later tried to contact Chinese embassy spokesperson Zhang Hua but she could not be reached for comment. On Wednesday, military sources, quoting local fishermen who saw the ship, described the vessel as “large” and bearing “Chinese markings.” “These intrusions were monitored during the night and these vessels believed to be Chinese were unloading construction materials on the island that we owned because it is part of the KIG,” said the source. The Western Command based in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan has already sent reconnaissance planes and patrol ships to check on the report that a Chinese landing tank ship unloaded materials soomewhere in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), according to Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo, the designated spokesman for security concerns in the West Philippine Sea and special disposition of forces of the Philippine Navy. “We are validating that information. Navy aircrafts and ships under the operation control of the Naval Forces West continue sovereignty patrol missions in its AOR (area of responsibility, including KIG,” Arevalo said. Maj. Oliver Banaria, commander of the 6 Civil Relations Group of the Armed Forces’ Civil Relations Service (CRS), also confirmed the course of action being undertaken by Westcom. Banaria, however, neither confirmed nor denied the report about the intrusion. “Sorry, I cannot confirm anything until we got feedback from the teams that were sent to verify the report,” he said. The report about the new intrusion of Chinese ships in the KIG during nighttime early this week  and the alleged dumping of construction materials in one of the KIG islets was “very much similar” to what the Chinese did in the Mischief Reef, which is located very near Spratlys. “The Chinese operate at night, brought their construction materials to the Mischief Reef by dropping them inside the lagoon until we woke up one day that the Chinese had already established underwater the foundations of the structures that we saw at present on that part of the sea that we originally owned,” a senior officer from the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said. The KIG is composed of seven islets and two reefs is a municipality of Palawan which is currently under the leadership of Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon. It is located in the WPS where the Spratly Islands (South China Sea) is found. China had rejected international arbitration to address the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea, prompting Manila to file a case before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas tribunal. Beijing, however, rejected Manila’s move and insisted that China has indisputable sovereignty over the entire waters and formations southeast of China encompassed by its nine-dash line claim. China’s refusal to participate in the proceedings, however,  will not derail the arbitration,  and the tribunal can still proceed with an ex-parte trial and make a binding decision, according to arbitration rules. The KIG is composed of seven islets and two reefs is a municipality of Palawan which is currently under the leadership of Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon. It is located in the WPS where the Spratly Islands (South China Sea) is found. With Florante S. Solmerin
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