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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Chinese chopper harass, hurt marine scientists off Pag-asa

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Filipino scientists and researchers conducting a marine resource assessment on Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea were hurt by the debris caused by a Chinese Navy helicopter hovering low over them on Sandy Cay this weekend, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said.

Also, a BFAR crew manning an underwater drone almost drowned because he could not come out of the water due to the strong winds generated by the helicopter. The person was eventually rescued by a colleague, the bureau added.

The harassment happened on the same day that China Coast Guard vessels fired water cannon at the Philippine resupply boat Unaizah May 4 during the rotation and resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal, injuring three Filipinos.

In a video released by BFAR, a People’s Liberation Army Navy helicopter with tail number 57 was seen hovering above Sandy Cay 3 and 4 and monitoring the Filipinos’ activity.

The research team was made up of researchers from the BFAR, the University of the Philippines Institute of Biology, and the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute.

The helicopter continued to hover close to the sand bar, where some researchers were conducting their assessment.

According to BFAR personnel, the researchers were frightened after the helicopter started to drop to as low as 50 feet from the ground for about 10 minutes.

Some of the scientists and BFAR crew sustained cuts and scratches from the debris kicked up by the strong wind from the hovering chopper.

The research divers also reported hearing “ping” sounds with three-second intervals while diving at Cay 3.

Owing to the helicopter’s imposing presence, the mission commander recalled the research team. With Vince Lopez

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