The residents of Pag-asa Island in the town of Kalayaan were alarmed after two different Chinese ships were seen passing just a mile from their shores on Monday, April 8.

Fisherman and island resident Larry Hugo captured footage of the passing Chinese ships, distinguishing one as belonging to the China Coast Guard (CCG) while noting that the other exhibited a distinct appearance.

Hugo, a member and officer of the Kalayaan Palawan Farmers and Fisherfolks Association Inc., shared his video on Facebook on April 10.

“Dumaan lang. Nagtaka kasi ang mga tao [dahil] hindi naman dati dinadaanan ng barko ng China ang lugar sa may bandang silangan ng Pag-asa,” Hugo told Palawan News on Thursday.

“Isang milya lang ang layo, malapit sa may breakwater,” he added.

Hugo recounted being on the shore when the CCG ship and a possible militia vessel passed by, allowing him to capture them on his mobile phone.

This passage occurred just weeks ago when two CCG ships blasted Unaizah May 4 (UM4) with high-pressure water while en route to Ayungin Shoal to supply food to Philippine troops stationed on the grounded BRP Sierra Madre there.

Recent tensions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) have escalated due to increased Chinese presence and assertiveness in the region. This includes the continued presence of CCG ships and maritime militia vessels near Philippine-claimed territories, such as Ayungin.

The Philippines has repeatedly raised concerns over China’s aggressive actions, emphasizing the need to uphold international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which recognizes the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and territorial rights in the area.

The situation has also drawn attention from neighboring countries and international stakeholders, with calls for peaceful resolution and respect for maritime laws and norms.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed his intention on Wednesday to request clarification from Huang Xilian, the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, concerning reports of an alleged informal agreement between former President Rodrigo Duterte and China regarding the West Philippine Sea.

This was in response to inquiries from journalists in San Juan about the rumored agreement that potentially undermined the Philippines’ stance on the West Philippine Sea issue.

He expressed his shock at the notion that a so-called gentleman’s agreement or clandestine pact could jeopardize “the territory, sovereignty, and sovereign rights of the Philippines.”