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China boats harass PH research, media team

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Personnel and sea assets from Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) were harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) during their mission at Escoda Shoal last Tuesday, authorities reported Friday.

On the morning of Tuesday, June 4, rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) from the BRP Teresa Magbanua were sent carrying PCG personnel, members from the media and marine scientists from the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) to assess the coral health at Escoda Shoal.

The mission of the Marine scientists and PCG were conducted following the reports of crushed corals allegedly being dumped by China in the water.

Shortly after their departure, several Chinese boats began tailing the Filipino boats.

The tension arose when a CCG boat repeatedly collided with the PCG as they attempted to meddle with the research activity of the scientists.

Despite the interference, Filipino researchers continued diving and collecting coral samples in the area.

The situation in the area intensified as a Chinese helicopter flew overhead and 2 inflatable RHIBS appeared.

With the return to the PCG ships, CCG boats and ships pursued the Philippine vessels, repeatedly sounding their horns and attempting to block their path.

Despite these obstacles, the mission concluded safely, and the team returned to BRP Teresa Magbanua.

“They deployed four China Coast Guard vessels, they also deployed two of their choppers and even the hovercraft,” PCG spokesperson for the WPS, Commodore Jay Tarriela said on Friday.

“For me this is the action of China to intimidate marine scientists to prevent them from surveying here in Escoda Shoal… They don’t have the proper authority to conduct such amphibious operations within our own exclusive economic zone which they don’t have informed the Department of Foreign Affairs,” he added.

Last March, marine scientists from UP as well as personnel from BFAR were injured during their research activity in Sandy Cay 3 and 4 in the West Philippine Sea after a Chinese aircraft hovered at very range to the sand bar.

Tarriela said in a press conference that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) 987 of China suddenly conducted military exercises along Escoda Shoal while marine scientific studies were being held there on June 3 to 4.

Tarriela further said that the Chinese Navy got in touch with MRRV9701 (BRP Teresa Magbanua) to inform them that they will be conducting amphibious drills within the area. However, before informing the BRP Teresa Magbanua, the Chinese Navy had already launched its hovercraft.

The BRP Teresa Magbanua is the largest seafaring vessel of the Philippine Coast Guard. It has been deployed since April at Escoda Shoal after Manila received news that China is launching to build another artificial landmass in the vicinity.

“The other day, the PLA conducted an exercise in Sabina Shoal from 1100 to 1800. This was repeated also yesterday. We were able to monitor and challenge all their actions in Sabina Shoal,” Philippine Navy spokesperson Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said.

The Chinese Navy, with its hovercraft and an aircraft, performed maneuvers in the area, added Trinidad.

“First and foremost, they have no right to be within our exclusive economic zone. The conduct of an exercise is unauthorized under UNCLOS. It is not allowed,” he added.


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