The presence of a Chinese navy reconnaissance ship in Philippine territorial waters in the Sulu Sea, according to PBA party-list House Rep. Jericho Nograles, should be a cause of concern for security officials.
Nograles said in a statement that the “first publicly disclosed incident” happened at a time when the Philippines and the United States were holding Marine Exercise 2022 (MAREX 22), was “deliberate and calculated” to test the country’s border security amid the escalating tension between China and Taiwan.
He emphasized the need for the country to have full documentation of such incidents as there might be a need to elevate the issue to the 77th United Nations General Assembly, which will happen in September.
“I ask the Navy, Coast Guard, and PNP (Philippine National Police) Maritime Group to fully disclose to the Congress the number of Chinese incursions into Philippine territorial waters and what type of incursions were made so that we can also craft policies and propose actions on how to deal with these issues,” Nograles said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) vessel with bow number 792 entered Philippine waters “without permission” and reached the Cuyo Group of Islands in Palawan and Apo Island in Mindoro on January 29 to February 1.
The Philippine Navy vessel BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) challenged PLAN 792 which claimed that it was “exercising innocent passage”.
“Its movements, however, did not follow a track that can be considered as continuous and expeditious, lingering in the Sulu Sea for three days,” the DFA said.
It added that PLAN 792 continued its intrusion in Philippine waters despite repeated directions by the BRP Antonio Luna to leave immediately.
The DFA has already summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian through Acting Undersecretary Theresa Lazaro.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Deputy Director Zhao Lijian said in a statement that the “Chinese passage was safe and standard, and consistent with international law and international practice”.
“The latest intrusion is now within our domestic waters and no longer in our exclusive economic zone so this should really cause some alarm. This is no longer just an issue about our territorial claims under UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) but this is already a deliberate and outright act of trespassing which is a violation of our constitution and our domestic laws,” Nograles said. (PNA)