Skip to main content

China frigate heads home, averts South China Sea standoff

(Reuters) - A Chinese frigate grounded in disputed waters close to the Philippines was refloated on Sunday and headed back home, averting a possible standoff with the Philippines navy amid rising tensions in the strategically key South China Sea.

The South China Sea has become Asia's biggest potential military flashpoint as Beijing's sovereignty claim over the huge area has set it against Vietnam and the Philippines as the three countries race to tap possibly huge oil reserves.

In all, six parties have rival claims to the waters, which were a central issue at an acrimonious ASEAN regional summit last week that ended with its members failing to agree on a concluding statement for the first time in 45 years.

On Friday, the Chinese navy said one of its vessels had run aground on Half Moon Shoal, about 90 nautical miles off the western Philippine island of Palawan, prompting Manila to send two of its vessels and reconnaissance aircraft to the area.

Beijing said its vessel had been on a routine patrol.

"At about 5 a.m. on July 15, the frigate which had run aground in waters near Half Moon Shoal successfully extricated itself with the help of a rescue team," China's defense ministry said in a statement.

"The bow has sustained light damage and everybody on board is safe. Its return to port is being organized. The incident caused no maritime pollution," the statement added, without providing further details.

The Philippines defense ministry confirmed the grounded vessel and about six other Chinese ships spotted in the area had left.

Manila says Half Moon Shoal falls well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, as recognized by international law.

"The incident in Hasa-Hasa shoal makes us nervous," Rommel Banlaoii, executive director of Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, told Reuters, referring to Half Moon shoal in the Spratlys.

"I think what happened there was an accident, but we don't want such accident happening again because it could trigger something that all claimant states do not want to happen there."


Philippine defense and military officials say they are worried by China's "creeping" in disputed areas in the South China Sea, a violation of an informal code of conduct adopted in Cambodia in 2002.

The two countries have faced-off on a number of occasions in the disputed waters, and earlier in the year they were involved in a month-long standoff at Scarborough Shoal, about 500 km north of Half Moon Shoal.

Last year, the Philippines scrambled aircraft and ships to the Reed Bank area after Chinese navy ships threatened to ram a Philippine survey ship.

Beijing said last month it had begun "combat-ready" patrols in waters it said were under its control in the South China Sea, after saying it "vehemently opposed" a Vietnamese law asserting sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly islands.

The stakes have risen in the area as the U.S. military shifts its attention and resources back to Asia, emboldening its long-time ally the Philippines and former foe Vietnam to take a bolder stance against Beijing.

The United States has stressed it is neutral in the long-running maritime dispute, despite offering to help boost the Philippines' decrepit military forces. It says freedom of navigation is its main concern about a waterway that carries $5 trillion in trade -- half the world's shipping tonnage.

At last week's Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting, Cambodia sided with China and prevented the 10-nation bloc from issuing a customary concluding statement that covers achievements and concerns -- this year, that primarily involved the South China Sea.

Manuel Mogato/Ben Blanchard | Reuters | July 15, 2012 | Article Link


More Philippine Defense News

DND wants frigate with 'surface-to-air' missile power

MANILA, Philippines - Defense spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez announced on Friday that one of the frigates to be acquired by the Philippines will have "surface-to-air" capabilities. That is, the ship will have the capability to fire missiles, guided by radar or heat sensors, at airborne targets.
"Aside from this, our latest frigate will have heavier gun armament and other equipment that will make it very effective in patrolling and securing the country's waters," Galvez said in Filipino.
He declined to state the particular country the Philippines will acquire this ship but stressed that acquisition will be done through a government-to-government transaction.
The Philippines has taken on a new sense of urgency to upgrade its naval capabilities as tensions continue to rise around the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). US President Barack Obama's announced "pivot" for America towards the Pacific has stirred greater naval activity on the p…

No reduction in AFP manpower size

THERE will be no reduction in the number of soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines when it implements the streamlining of commands by 2013, a senior officer told the Manila Standard in an exclusive interview.
“Under the Force Structure Review, there will be streamlining of units but this does not mean reduction in terms of the number of soldiers. In fact, the FSR calls for more recruits in the future,” the source, who requested anonymity, said.
At present, the military has a total of 125,000 soldiers, of which almost 85,000 are in the Army and the rest in the Navy-Marines and Air Force.
The FSR calls for an in-depth study of the AFP history in reference to pertinent laws of the land in conjunction with the challenges of internal and external defense.
The study also calls for the establishment of a strategic command that will focus on external defense where the main force would be the Air Force and Navy.
On instructions of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, former military ch…

Philippine Armored Vehicles with ad-hoc wood slat armor

While searching for Philippine armored vehicles for the updates being done for both the blog and the Facebook page I chanced upon images of Philippine Army and Marine armor assets covered with thick wood planks as slat armor for protection from rocket propelled grenades. This caught the eyes of Popular Mechanics who published an article last June 8th just for this subject.

According to the article,
Wood armor on armored vehicles won't save them from ISIS rockets. Not sure, I'll leave that to the actual reports from the Philippine Military in using wood as an ad hoc protection for rpg's, but yes this is only during emergencies. The Philippine Army and Philippine Marines should employ or use the real add-on armors currently in the market for armored vehicle protection. Or they could just simply buy new thicker-armored vehicles to be used for front-line operations and have the old vehicles to be used in secondary missions or as support vehicles.

Nonetheless the fast-thinkin…