China Coast Guard ship 3306 (Photo courtesy of Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative)

A patrol ship belonging to the China Coast Guard (CCG) has been monitored by the Western Command (WESCOM) patrolling around the islands the country is claiming in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

WESCOM spokesperson Lt. Col. Stephen Penetrante said their littoral monitoring and aerial surveillance started sighting the CCG vessel with bow number 3306 on August 1.

The Chinese patrol, he added, often comes near Ayungin Shoal where a Philippine detachment is posted.

He said it only leaves the area when it is refueling and acquiring food supplies.

“Kanina andoon ‘yong Chinese Coast Guard. When it went there, we have no idea kung kelan pa ‘yong China Coast Guard na ‘yon nag-iikot sa may Ayungin pero na-monitor natin ngayong August lang,” he said Monday in a regular media briefing at WESCOM.

Penetrante said Beijing’s latest pattern is that there is always a CCG ship whenever there are Chinese fishing vessels whether located in one area or going to other sites in the WPS.

Depending on its “operational update”, China’s white ship goes around the maritime region in the Kalayaan.

“Basta may Chinese fishing vessels, palagi tayong nakakakita ng China Coast Guard. What are their intentions, we do not know. But the pattern is always there,” he said.

Penetrante said they are still establishing why the China Coast Guard ship will stay close to Ayungin Shoal (also Second Thomas Shoal), an area in the WPS where the Philippine Navy (PN) maintains personnel on board BRP Sierra Madre (LT-57).

He said “maybe” the white ship is monitoring activities in the disputed region or just securing their Chinese fishermen who go to the area for fishing sojourns.

“Palipat-lipat lang ‘yan sa mga island areas natin for rotation and surveillance,” he said.

On August 19, Penetrante said 42 vessels were spotted in the WPS — five Chinese fishing vessels near Pag-asa Island, two unidentified vessels in Lawak, a Vietnamese fishing vessel in Patag and one also in Parola, 27 Chinese and two Vietnamese fishing vessels in Panata, one Chinese fishing vessel in Kota, two more Vietnamese fishing vessels in RRD, and the China Coast Guard ship included.