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PCG begins 2-week monitoring mission in Batanes, PH Rise

MANILA: The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Monday deployed BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301) for a two-week mission to Batanes and Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise).

In a statement, PCG spokesperson Rear Admiral Armando Balilo said the ship will patrol these waters to promote ‘maritime domain awareness, intensify PCG presence in Northern Luzon, and monitor local fishermen.’

‘We will also check the reported Chinese research vessels in [Philippine] Rise,’ Balilo said.

He added that air assets of the PCG Aviation Force are on standby to help in the mission, specifically for aerial surveillance.

Earlier, Philippine Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said two Chinese research vessels that were spotted in Philippine Rise are now outside of the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

Trinidad said the vessels just passed through Philippine territory and were heading in the general direction of southeast of the Pacific Ocean.

Probe sought

The National Security Council
(NSC), meanwhile, said it has directed the Philippine Navy and the PCG to determine what the Chinese research vessels were doing in the Philippine Rise.

Speaking during Monday’s Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon briefing, NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya added that a report, once completed, will be forwarded to the National Security Adviser and National Task Force West Philippine Sea chairperson, Secretary Eduardo Año.

“So that if it is proven that they were loitering there and they were doing something which is not allowed – and we will have to recommend to the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) for the filing of a formal diplomatic protest,” Malaya said.

While stressing that there is nothing wrong with innocent passage, the NSC official said it is wrong and illegal for these ships to conduct maritime or marine research in the area.

Also, Malaya said that it would be improper for these ships to loiter in the area.

“If they’re loitering there and doing something else, that is a different matter alto
gether,” he added.

Malaya also stressed that the Philippines is the only country that has rights over the area.

He added that any research vessels passing through these waters need to get Manila’s expressed consent before they can conduct their business.

Continuous watch

In a statement on Monday, Speaker Martin Romualdez said any unauthorized presence or activities by foreign vessels in the Philippine Rise undermine the country’s sovereign rights.

‘The Philippines will not compromise its territorial integrity or allow any encroachment upon its sovereign rights. Philippine Rise is unquestionably within our EZZ, and we will assert our authority to safeguard our maritime domain,’ Romualdez said.

‘The Philippine Rise is a vital marine resource rich in biodiversity and potential for scientific research, as well as economic opportunities for our country. We must protect and harness its full potential for the benefit of the Filipino people,’ he added.

He called on all nations ‘to respect the rights of coastal
states, uphold the principles of international law, and refrain from any activities that undermine regional stability and maritime security.’

He said the Philippine government will continue to safeguard the country’s interest and assert the rights within the bounds of international law.

“The Philippines will not back down or yield an inch of its territory. We will continue to assert our rights over the Philippine Rise and any other maritime areas that belong to us under international law,’ Romualdez said.

Source: Philippines News Agency