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Friday, April 19, 2024

2 Chinese vessels spotted around Benham Rise — US analyst

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Two Chinese research vessels were seen loitering around Benham Rise on the north eastern side of Luzon, an American maritime security analyst reported over the weekend.

On his X account, former United States Air Force official Ray Powell said the Chinese vessels left from Longxue Island in Guangzhou before moving through Benham Rise, which is inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“As of 1 March they are loitering east of Luzon in the NE (Northeast) corner of Benham (Philippine) Rise,” Powell said.

In the satellite image posted by Powell, the two vessels were identified as Haiyang Dizhi Liuhao and Haiyang Dizhi Liuhao.

Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) Commander Lt. Gen. Fernyl Buca said they are still verifying the objective of the vessels.

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Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Rear Adm. Armand Balilo said an investigation would be conducted on the foreign ships’ agenda.

The Philippine government designated the resource-rich rise as a “protected food supply exclusive zone” in May 2017.

Chinese maritime intrusions typically occur in the disputed South China Sea, covering parts that are within the West Philippine Sea, but the presence of the two Chinese vessels happened north east of the Philippines.

Earlier, President Marcos told members of the Australian parliament that Beijing’s recent actions in the West Philippine Sea were “worrisome,” in particular the deployment of Chinese Navy boats.

“It’s worrisome because there are two elements to that: one is that previously only China’s Coast Guard was moving in our area. Now, also its Navy and fishing boats,” Mr. Marcos said.

“So, the situation is changing,” he added.

China, however, vowed there will be no let-up in its efforts to protect what it insisted was its “territorial sovereignty and maritime rights” in the West Philippine Sea.

To protect Filipino fishermen, PCG and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessels started holding rotational deployment in Bajo de Masinloc this February.

China claims most of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

In 2016, an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague said China’s claims had no legal basis, a decision Beijing has rejected.

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