The Chinese naval warship that figured in an incident with the Philippine Navy’s BRP Conrado Yap (PS 39) in the West Philippine Sea on February 17 had its guns aimed at the Philippine naval vessel and was “ready to fire in under a second”.

This was described in a statement released Thursday by the Western Command (WESCOM), following the country’s filing of diplomatic protests with Beijing over the incident.

Foreign affairs secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. in a Twitter post on Wednesday said that the Philippine government had filed two diplomatic protests, claiming that the Chinese ship had pointed its radar gun towards PS 39 during the incident and declared the area as part of its Hainan province.

According to the WESCOM, citing a report of its Joint Task Force West (JTF West), PS 39 was on its way to Rizal Reef Detachment, a feature occupied by the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea, when it came upon the Chinese vessel, reportedly a corvette-class warship with bow number 514.

“On February 17, 2020, while PS 39 is underway to Rizal Reef Detachment, they detected a radar contact of a gray-colored vessel,” the statement said.

“PS 39 was first to issue radio challenge on which the vessel responded — “the Chinese government has imputable sovereignty over the South China Sea, its islands and its adjacent waters”.

“PS 39 again challenged the vessel and then instructed (the Chinese vessel) to proceed directly to its next destination. That vessel repeated its response and maintained her course and speed,” the Wescom statement added.

Hostile act

According to the JTF West, BRP Conrado Yap was conducting “Territorial Defense Operations (TDO) and sovereignty patrol” at the Malampaya Natural Gas to Power Project (MNGPP) and at the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), WPS when it encountered the Chinese vessel. PS 39 had set sail from the Puerto Princesa City pier on February 15, 2020, for its mission.

The report stated that PS 39 was able to determine visually that the Chinese vessel had aimed its “gun control director” towards the Philippine ship, describing the act as “hostile intent.”

“While PS39 does not have the Electronic Support Measures (ESM) to confirm that PLAN Gun Control Director was directed towards her, visual identification confirms this hostile intent. This hostile act on the part of the Chinese Government and encroachment within the Philippines’ EEZ is perceived as a clear violation of international law and Philippine Sovereignty,” the statement said.

“PS39 was able to visually observe that the Gun Control Director, a piece of equipment that gives information in obtaining a fire control solution of said PLAN vessel, was directed towards PS39. This Gun Control Director can be used to designate and track targets and makes all the main guns ready to fire in under a second,” it added.

Both vessels continued their respective voyage following the incident.

“The Western Command as the AFP’s primary unit in the West Philippine Sea will continue to perform its duty and will never be intimidated nor let our guards down in protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the Philippines and will support any future capability upgrade of our ships patrolling our Philippines,” the statement said.