Chinese vessel docked in Catanduanes sought shelter: PCG

By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz

February 2, 2021, 7:39 am

<p>Chinese research vessel Jia Geng<em> (Photo courtesy of Ryan Martinson on Twitter)</em></p>

Chinese research vessel Jia Geng (Photo courtesy of Ryan Martinson on Twitter)

MANILA – Chinese research vessel Jia Geng, the subject of a previous diplomatic protest, that docked off Catanduanes waters from Friday to Monday sought shelter in the country, an official of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said.

In a phone interview on Monday, PCG spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo said the vessel left the country at 6 a.m. Monday and was escorted by the PCG, noting that based on its previous track, the Jia Geng did not come from the Philippine Rise.

“It's a simple na humingi lang ng tulong dahil may gale warning sa area, masama talaga ang panahon at nagpalipas lang sila nung una ng oras para hindi naman sila malagay sa alanganin (it was a simple call for help because of a gale warning in the area, the weather was bad and they while away time initially to avoid danger),” Balilo said.

He said the PCG continuously monitors incursions on domestic waters and also takes humanitarian considerations such as seeking temporary shelter.

He said the PCG vessel and crew sent to inspect Jia Geng were not allowed by the Chinese crew to board the ship to avoid transmission of Covid-19.

“Dahil sa Covid-19 'yan. Syempre nag-iingat din sila. I think that's a valid reason. At saka state vessel 'yan eh. Hindi naman siya commercial (It was because of Covid-19. Of course, they were being careful. I think that’s a valid reason. And it’s a state vessel, it’s not commercial),” Balilo said.

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Earlier, the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines released a statement regarding “false allegations on the newly passed China Coast Guard law” and the docking of Jia Geng in Philippine waters.

Jia Geng, it said, sought humanitarian shelter in Philippine waters due to “unfavorable weather and sea conditions in the Pacific” and sought clearance and humanitarian assistance from the Philippine government.

Reports provided by the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea indicated that Jia Geng was spotted operating in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea in April and May 2020.

Jia Geng was first detected entering the Philippines' exclusive economic zone on April 20, conducting several activities within the exclusive economic zone and the Kalayaan Island Group in various periods until May 18.

It added that Jia Geng conducted an illegal research expedition in Philippine waters after it was found to be performing survey patterns such as “stop-and-go” and “lawnmower” maneuvers and returned repeatedly to Bajo de Masinloc and the Kalayaan Group of Islands.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Embassy noted that the controversial China Coast Guard law "conforms to international conventions and the practices of the international community".

“Enacting such a coast guard law is not unique to China, but a sovereign right to all. Many countries have enacted similar legislation," it said.

This comes after the Philippine government last week filed a diplomatic protest against the new Chinese legislation, considering the area that may be involved, particularly in some parts of the South China Sea where both the Philippines and China have overlapping territorial claims.

In a previous tweet, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the law, which allows the CCG to fire on foreign vessels or individuals infringing on Chinese sovereignty, "is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law; which if unchallenged, is submission to it." (PNA)