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Chinese navy ship tails BFAR vessel in WPS

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SHADOWED. In this video grab, the Chinese Navy ship with bow number 549 tails the civilian ship BRP Francisco Dagohoy as it completes an aid mission to Pag-Asa Island in the West Philippine Sea before sailing back to Puerto Princesa in Palawan.

A Chinese Navy ship tailed a Philippine government vessel in the disputed West Philippine Sea on Thursday, GMA News and several eyewitness reporters said.

The rare encounter with China’s “gray” or military ship took place six nautical miles southwest of Pag-asa Island, an area well within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

Journalists from several media organizations witnessed the incident while on board BRP Francisco Dagohoy, a multi-mission vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The Dagohoy was just two hours into its journey from Pag-asa Island to Puerto Princesa, Palawan after completing an aid mission when it encountered the Chinese ship.

An official Department of Agriculture-BFAR statement said the Dagohoy carried P4.95 million worth of fishing and post-harvest equipment to fisherfolk groups in Pag-Asa Island.

Amid rough sea conditions and gloomy skies, a speeding gray ship flying China’s flag with bow number 549 appeared on the horizon.

It caught the crew of the Dagohoy by surprise, as the Chinese ship’s Automatic Identification System was turned off while making its approach from the rear.

The navy vessel revved up its powerful engines and started making a beeline for the much slower BRP ship, GMA News reported. The Chinese ship barreled through the waves with ease, tailing the Philippine ship from a distance of approximately one nautical mile.

The navy ship then maneuvered to the right and shadowed the civilian vessel while still maintaining a safe sailing distance.

People on board BRP Francisco Dagohoy watched and observed alertly, GMA News said. Nothing else happened — not even a radio challenge was heard from the Chinese Navy ship.

The commanding officer of BRP Francisco Dagohoy downplayed the close encounter with the Chinese gray ship.

“It did not do any aggressive maneuver,” Lieutenant Commander Mark Adrias said.

The Dagohoy proceeded with its voyage as planned, reaching Puerto Princesa on Friday afternoon.

China has been flexing its military supremacy in the contested waters of the West Philippine Sea, ignoring a United Nations ruling that rejected its territorial claims.

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