Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chinese gunboat stuck in shoal near Palawan

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of National Defense (DND) on Friday confirmed that a Chinese warship has run aground on a shoal located well within Philippine waters, about 60 nautical miles from Rizal, Palawan.

The DND said the ship that ran aground was a Jianghu Class, a Chinese guided missile frigate with bow number 560.

“We have dispatched our own assets from the Western Command to investigate kung bakit siya andyan. Naaksidente ba? Kung kailangan nila ng tulong, tutulong tayo,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

Australian paper Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Chinese warship ran aground while patrolling the contested waters adjacent to the Philippines in the hotly-contested West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The report quoting Western Diplomatic sources added that the frigate pinned itself to a reef the other night at Half Moon (Hasa Hasa) Shoal, on the southeastern edge of the Spratlys Islands and remains “thoroughly struck”.

“Salvage operations could be diplomatically challenging, given the vessel appears to have run around within 200 kilometers of the Philippines Coast, which is squarely within what Manila claims to be its Exclusive Economic Zone,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Sources in the Armed Forces' Western Command (Wescom) said the ill-fated Chinese warship is one of several Chinese naval gunboats that have been conducting regular patrols in the West Philippine Sea and have been aggressively harassing Filipino fishermen in the hotly-contested waters.

Another source said the sea mishap occurred several days ago without any sign that the Chinese warship being salvaged from the area.

“It’s been there since it (warship) struck the reef several days ago,” said a source, adding that the Chinese vessel is based at the Chinese's highly-fortified Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef).

Mischief Reef, he said, is only 76 nautical miles from Hasa Hasa Shoal.

While the sealane in Hasa-Hasa is an international passage way for commercial vessels, the source said the presence of the Chinese warship in the area only bolstered China’s creeping invasion in the South China Sea, which is also being claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunie.

“Hasa Hasa Shoal is only 60 nautical miles from Rizal, Palawan. They have no right to be there in the first place,” the source stressed.

For several months now, China has become very aggressive in laying its territorial claim over the entire South China Sea based only on historical claim.

Aside from Mischief Reef, China has also installed a powerful radar atop a four-story building they have constructed at their occupied Subi Reef, which is only 12 nautical miles from Pag-Asa Island, seat of the municipal government of Kalayaan town in Palawan province.

Jaime Laude | The Philippine Star | July 13, 2012 | Article Link

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