ON ... RÉPOND !
Taiwan pense envoyer des missiles Air-Sol, les Philippins jouent aux bateaux tamponneurs avec les Chinois.
Américains et Philippins font des exercices amphibies conjoints dans le secteur.
Regain de tension dans les Spratly's ?
Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama confirmed the “freak” incident in the vicinity of Recto Bank but said Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of the Western Command (Wescom), has the details of the incident. Wescom has jurisdiction over the waters covering the Recto Bank.
“It was really an accident, not a hostile act when our ship was verifying the activity of the (Chinese) shipping boat,” Pama told The STAR from the US where he was on an official trip. He stressed the Navy gunboat experienced steering difficulty.
The Chinese embassy has been informed of the incident, but the embassy spokesman said it has yet to confirm the report.
“We have no report on that. We will verify,” said Deputy Chief of Political Section and spokesman Sun Yi.
“It happened at about 6 a.m. within the vicinity of the Recto Bank involving our own PS-74 and a Chinese mother ship,” Sabban told The STAR in a telephone interview.
Recto Bank is within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but is also among the islets in the hotly contested Spratlys Group, also being claimed in whole or in part by China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Sabban said the Navy’s PS-74 chanced upon the Chinese vessels and made a maneuver to take a closer look.
“As our patrolling ship was approaching to check on the encroaching Chinese vessels, it incurred a steering problem and accidentally hit the mother ship of the Chinese fishermen,” Sabban said.
He said big waves affected the ship’s steering, causing it to move uncontrollably toward the Chinese vessels. After being rammed by the Navy gunboat, the Chinese vessel quickly disengaged and released the smaller boats.
“After cutting the towing line, the mother ship fled, leaving behind 25 sampans it was towing,” Sabban said.
With its steering problem fixed, the gunboat towed the Chinese boats to Hulugan Bay in Palawan.
But Pama said reports reaching him indicated that the captain of the Chinese vessel, thinking that the PS-74 was approaching to ram his boat, released the smaller boats and hurriedly sailed away.
“So the fishing ship captain cut the towing ropes. So it was not a big accident really,” Pama said.
Sabban also stressed there was no intention on the part of the patrolling Navy gunboat to harm or harass the Chinese fishing vessels and its crewmembers.
The PS-74 returned to its port intact. “It was just a minor derangement,” Pama said.
No Chinese fisherman was arrested, the Navy chief disclosed.
Pama is in Newport, Rhode Island for the International Sea Power Symposia. He is presenting the Philippine papers at the symposia attended by chiefs of navies of 65 countries.
He left Sunday and will return to Manila this weekend.
“The Chinese vessel strayed into our waters. As a result of the accident, the Chinese vessel left behind some small fishing boats in our possession, which we may consider returning,” DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said.
Yesterday’s incident happened a day after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officially opened an annual joint naval drill in the country.
At least 1,000 Filipino Marines and 2,000 US servicemen are taking part in this year’s joint naval drill being conducted on a yearly basis in line with the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the US.
In March this year, two Chinese gunboats harassed a civilian research vessel commissioned by the Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct research and seismic studies in the Reed Bank Basin.
The two Chinese gunboats were forced to leave the area when Wescom dispatched its OV-10 bombers in response to the distress calls from the DOE research vessel.
The Spratly Islands Group is considered a potential regional flashpoint but there are ongoing efforts to resolve the territorial disputes peacefully.
Taiwan, considered a renegade province by China, has made known its plan to install an advance missile system in Itu Aba, the biggest island in the island group that it occupies.
The BRP Rizal (PS-74) is the first of two Rizal class ships in service with the Philippine Navy. She is formerly an ex-USN Auk class minesweeper that were produced during World War II, and is now classified as a patrol corvette protecting the vast waters of the Philippines. Along with other ex-World War II veteran ships of the Philippine Navy, she is considered as one of the oldest active fighting ships in the world today.