The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on Sunday that a Chinese Coast Guard vessel headed very close to one of its patrol vessels in the waters near Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) in Zambales.
The PCG said the incident which occurred earlier this month was a flagrant violation of the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea, 1972, which set out, among other things, rules of navigation to be followed by ships. and other vessels to avoid collisions.
In an incident report, the PCG said its staff were monitoring a CCG vessel with bow number 3305 performing “short range manoeuvres” towards BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402) which was patrolling the waters off of Bajo de Masinloc on March 2.
PCG Commander Vice Admiral Artemio Abu said the incident was the fourth involving CCG vessels in the disputed area.
China claims sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc – also known as Panatag Shoal or Scarborough Shoal – based on the so-called “nine-dash line” which was declared invalid by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in La Hague.
Bajo de Masinloc is part of the Municipality of Masinloc in Zambales and is located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales and lies within the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the Philippine Continental Shelf.
China’s coast guard and militia vessels illegally set up a blockade to prevent access to the shoal after a standoff in 2012.
Abu said the first incident took place on May 19, 2021 when a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources PCG-piloted patrol vessel, MCS-3005, reported a close-range maneuver involving a CCG vessel numbered bow 3301.
The second incident also involved CCG vessel 3301 while the third involved a CCG vessel with bow number 3103.
Abu said the two CCG vessels conducted close range maneuvers with BRP Capones (MRRV-4404) and BRP Sindangan (MRRV-4407) while the PCG conducted exercises at Bajo de Masinloc on June 1-2, 2021 .
The PCG commander said the behavior of the CCG vessels involved increased the risk of collision with four of the Coast Guard vessels.
“We immediately coordinated with the Western Philippines National Sea Task Force and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to address this issue through peaceful and rules-based approaches,” Abu said in a statement.
“We are fully aware of the dangerous situations at sea, but this will not prevent our deployment of assets and personnel to Bajo de Masinloc, Philippine Rise and other parts of the country’s exclusive economic zones,” he said. added.