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Chinese missile boats drive away Filipino TV crew in West Philippine Sea

The Hundred Islands National Park, Philippines. Photo: guidetothephilippines.ph. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

MANILA, Apr 9, 2021, PhilStar. Chinese vessels on Thursday chased off a Filipino boat carrying a television crew within the Philippine exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, The Philippine Star reported.

ABS-CBN News’ Chiara Zambrano reported that she and her crew were supposed to visit Ayungin Shoal, where the Philippine Navy maintains its presence through BRP Sierra Madre.

The Filipino boat, however, failed to even get near the shoal.

“We were just on our way there when a white Chinese coast guard ship approached and headed straight for us. We can see through the lens that the ship is heading in our direction,” Zambrano said in her report for “TV Patrol” Thursday night.

The ABS-CBN reporter added that the Chinese coast guard ship later on radioed in and asked them what they were doing in the area.

The Filipino boatmen, however, decided to just return to mainland Palawan.

“But what happened was that even though we were on the way home to the mainland, for an hour we were chased by this white ship of the China Coast Guard. It was so close we could see its bow number,” Zambrano said in Filipino.

The ABS-CBN News team identified the vessel as China Coast Guard ship 5101.

The Chinese coast guard ship later on stopped following them, but two smaller ships emerged and followed the Filipino boat.

“There were two smaller but faster vessels and when we looked at it they were Type 022 Houbei fast attack crafts with two missiles mounted each one of them,” the reporter added.

The Type 022 is the Chinese navy’s new-generation stealth missile fast attack craft. It is equipped with two missile launchers and has a top speed of 38 knots, according to Global Security.

Zambrano noted that the two missile boats came from China’s military outpost on Panganiban or Mischief Reef.

This incident occurred about 90 nautical miles from mainland Palawan, well within the Philippine EEZ.

This comes after the Philippines started filing daily diplomatic protests for every day that China refuses to pull out its ships in the West Philippine Sea.

As of March 29, 44 Chinese militia ships were located in Julian Felipe Reef and hundreds others seen in nearby reefs.

The Chinese foreign ministry, however, maintain that these ships are just fishing vessels and called on the Philippines to stop “wanton hype-up” of the issue.

Chinese foreign ministry Zhao Lijian said Beijing does not plan to maintain a permanent presence in the area.

In response to this, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. once again urged China to move out its ships.

“”Then tell them to move out. All of them. If they’re really fishing the fish are all gone; they’re just fouling the water with waste. Nobody fishes by lashing ships together,” Locsin tweeted Wednesday night.

Patricia Lourdes Viray

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