Chinese Navy creeps past Zamboanga

Jake Sanders

Turtle Island, Malaysia

Zamboanga del Sur -Three Chinese warships were intercepted by members of the Philippine Navy in the afternoon of June 6 and challenged via radio between the seas off Pilas Island and behind Santa Cruz Island. The Chinese Navy’s East Sea Fleet’s Duludao-class dispatch ship “Dong-Jiao 93” was one of the ships that was spotted. It was escorted by two amphibious transport ships, one named “Jinggang Shan” and bearing the pennant number 999, both of which were Type 071.

Lieutenant Commander Chester Cabaltera, operations officer of Westmincom’s Naval Forces, said their unit spotted the Chinese vessels and immediately reported the incident to the Western Mindanao Command’s public affairs office.

“We already coordinated with Western Mindanao Command’s PIO regarding this. The PLA Navy ships were transiting our area, observing their right to innocent passage, and they responded to our units through radio communication” Cabaltera explained.

The Naval Forces Western Mindanao described the two People’s Liberation Army Navy vessels as a training ship with bow number 83 and an amphibious transport dock with bow number 999.

“In accordance with standard operating procedure, the AFP dispatched BRP Domingo Deluana (PG-905) to shadow or monitor the passage of the two PLA Navy vessels. Our escorting vessel also issued a standard challenge to the Chinese warships,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines said in a statement. “One of the vessels, Qi Jiquang (BN-83) responded that it was conducting normal navigation from its last port of call in Dili, Timor Leste en route to Dalian, China,” the AFP said.

Netizens from Basilan said they had actually seen three Chinese naval ships.

The Basilan Strait, which connects the Sulu Sea to the Celebes Sea via the Moro Gulf, is recognized as an international sea lane where vessels from various nations may undertake innocent passage.

Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea says a passage may be deemed innocent “so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State.”