The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed monitoring not only two but four Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) vessels transiting the Balabac Strait on June 19, Public Affairs Office (PAO) Chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement.

He stated that the four PLAN vessels were tracked within 12 nautical miles of Palawan.

“At 1:49 p.m., two of these vessels were identified as the PLAN destroyer Luyang III (DDG-168) and the frigate Jiangkai II (FFG-570), moving at a speed of 13 knots, both heading southwest,” Trinidad said.

“The other two vessels, the destroyer Renhai (CG-105) and the replenishment oiler Fuchi (AOR-907), were monitored at 3:56 p.m. moving at a speed of 15 knots, both also heading southwest.,” he added.

The PAO chief further stated that, as part of standard operating procedure, the AFP issued challenges to the Chinese vessels, to which “they responded accordingly.”

Trinidad also confirmed that the area where the PLAN vessels were monitored is a common route for international vessels transiting through Philippine waters.

“Our capability to monitor and respond to such activities is a testament to our commitment to maritime domain awareness and the protection of our territory, sovereignty, and sovereign rights. Rest assured, the AFP remains vigilant in safeguarding our maritime interests,” he stated.

Former Bancalaan barangay captain Roy Reyes posted on social media that he and doctors from Adventist Hospital Palawan were on their way home after conducting an ophthalmological mission on Mangsee Island when they spotted two Chinese naval vessels between the islands of Camiaran and Onok.

As they approached the Melville area, he claimed, one of the battleships, which had the designation #105, was just very near their boat.

“Chinese flag ang nakita namin. Usually, daanan ng mga international cargo ships yan papunta ng Kudat, Malaysia. Sa harap lang ng Melville yan. First time namin makakita,” Reyes stated.

Dr. Arnie Estrobo, one of the doctors, said they were startled awake when they saw the Chinese battleship cross their route, initially believing it to be the BRP Antonio Luna because it is the biggest ship in the Philippines.

“At first, I thought it was the BRP Antonio Luna because it’s known to be the largest ship in the Philippines. I was looking for the name but couldn’t find it, and then we saw the flag of China,” he said.

“That’s when our boat’s captain immediately raised the Philippine flag, probably to warn them that this is still Philippine territory,” Estrobo said.