MANILA – The Philippines will raise the reported chasing incident involving two Chinese vessels and a team of Filipino journalists sailing in the West Philippine Sea "if proven to be true," the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Saturday.
"Philippine authorities are looking into reports of Chinese vessels chasing after a television crew aboard a Philippine vessel in the West Philippine Sea. If proven to be true, the Department of Foreign Affairs will raise the matter with the Chinese government," the department said in a statement.
The DFA, meanwhile, said it was relieved that the crew and the Filipino boat are safe.
At the same time, it reminded the public to coordinate with Philippine authorities when planning a visit to the Kalayaan Island Group in the West Philippine Sea.
A TV crew from ABS-CBN on board a Filipino civilian vessel recently visited reefs and shoals in the area to see how Filipino fishermen have been affected by the presence of Chinese vessels in their former fishing grounds.
According to journalist Chiara Zambrano, the team was trying to make its way to Ayungin Shoal and was four nautical miles from the entrance when a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel was spotted on the south side of the shoal.
Zambrano said the Filipino crew observed the ship until it received a radio message from the CCG, asking them to identify themselves.
Based on the ABS-CBN report, the Filipino captain decided to steer the boat away from the shoal but the CCG vessel "accelerated its speed and started to chase" the civilian ship and followed “its path home to mainland Palawan for an hour.”
Eventually, two missile-capable boats "emerged in the horizon" and "resumed the chase" even when the Filipino boat was only 90 nautical miles off Palawan.
The report said the missile boats “pursued the Filipino vessel for 20 to 30 minutes before pulling out and returning to the direction of Mischief Reef.” (PNA)