China ‘harasses’ PHL research and US exploration vessels
CHINA has reportedly harassed marine research and hydrological exploration activities inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone since March, the US think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has reported.
“The Chinese Coast Guard and militia dangerously harassed Philippine and Taiwanese vessels in the Philippine EEZ during three separate confrontations in March and April. Beijing gives the Marcos admin a glimpse of what to expect,” AMTI Principal Researcher and Director Greg Poling wrote on Twitter.
The first incident occurred last March during a cat-and-mouse hunt involving the Taiwanese research vessel The Legend, which started northwest of the Babuyan Islands in Batanes and ended near the shoal. from Panatag (Scarborough) to Zambales.
The Legend was conducting hydrographic surveys off the Babuyan Islands when a Coast Guard vessel based at Panatag (Mischief) Reef began dangerously following it at a distance of 2 to 3 nautical miles on March 24.
Taipei immediately dispatched its own coast guard from Pratas Island and maneuvered to keep the Chinese coast guard away from the Legend for two days. China continued to follow Legend as it closed in on the Philippine coast, towards the disputed Scarborough Shoal. It was at this time that the Philippine Coast Guard patrol boat BRP Capones accompanied the Taiwanese vessel. The Chinese Coast Guard stopped tracking the Taiwanese ship when it returned to Taiwan on April 9.
The second incident occurred on April 4, about 60 miles off the west coast of Palawan. A Norwegian survey vessel, the Geo Coral and its supply vessel Mariska G have been contracted to carry out seismic surveys by PXP Energy Corp. near Recto (Reed) Bank, southwest of the Malampaya gas field. They had just arrived at SC 75 when they picked up a tail from a Chinese Coast Guard vessel.
The Chinese Coast Guard vessel followed the two vessels until the Philippine Department of Energy ordered PXP Energy to suspend all exploration activities for SC 75 and SC 72.
On April 21, Chinese law enforcement and militia ships again interfered with Philippine search activities. The M/V DA BFAR, a 60-meter research vessel operated by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of the Ministry of Agriculture, was heading towards Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal when a Chinese Coast Guard vessel pursued the DA BFAR at “extremely close ranges”. , approaching up to 100 meters in several cases.
Then another Chinese Coast Guard ship and two Hainan-based militia ships approached from the north. Feeling the pressure, the DA BFAR retreated to the island of Pag-asa. Then the Philippine Coast Guard BRP Cape Engaño later approached the Ayungin Shoal and was again followed by the same Chinese Coast Guard vessel and the same militia vessel that harassed the DA BFAR at distances of “approximately 1 nautical mile”. The three ships were about 6 nautical miles east of Ayungin Shoal when three more Chinese militia ships arrived and flanked them east of Cape Engaño.
A stalemate ensued for several hours, and Cape Engaño then turned back east, before heading for the unoccupied Whitsun Reef.
“The three incidents demonstrate Beijing’s determination to control maritime activity inside the nine-dash line and create a high risk of collisions at sea to do so. In one instance, his tactic clearly succeeded, convincing the Philippines to reverse an October 2020 decision to lift a nearly decade-old moratorium on oil and gas exploration in areas of its continental shelf that lie inside the nine-dash line. This follows a complete lack of progress in joint exploration despite a 2018 memorandum of understanding with Beijing, which makes it unclear whether the Philippines will ever be able to access their hydrocarbon resources at Reed Bank,” he said. said IMTA.
“On other fronts, law enforcement, navy and marine science actors in the Philippines have stepped up their activities in the South China Sea despite an increasingly assertive China. But with a new administration taking power at the end of June, it remains to be seen how strongly the Philippines will continue to assert these rights,” he added.