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Chinese ship seen off Samar

A Chinese vessel may have been spotted in Eastern Samar but the Philippine Coast Guard declared it has yet to find any violations for sailing in the country’s territorial waters.

PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said they found nothing illegal with the Chinese research ship plying the area, especially if it was just an “innocent passage.”

“Basta dumaan lang, walang problema. Kung more than 12 nautical miles ng territorial sea, pwede ka naman dumaan,” he said.

Balilo explained that even United States and Japan have been exercising their right to passage in the waters of Eastern Samar. “Lahat naman dumaraan diyan,” the PCG spokesman noted.

Balilo’s statement came after the reported presence of Chinese vessels not only in the disputed South China Sea but also in the Philippine Sea.

It was disclosed that China has been setting up radar and other surveillance installation close to Panatag Shoal, also known as Scarborough Shoal, in Zambales.

It also sent ships to Benham Rise for research that authorities monitored from November 2016 to January this year.

Benham Rise is an underwater landmass believed to be potentially rich in mineral and natural gas deposits.

The Chinese ship spotted in the South China Sea was Xiang Yang Hong 03. It was reportedly found staying for nine days northwest of Vigan City, Ilocos Sur.

The other was Xiang Yang Hong 06 that was seen for 19 days until it was monitored 226 nautical miles northeast of Guiuan, Eastern Samar.

The Chinese ship was spotted in Eastern Samar between the period of January to March, according to Balilo.

The head of PCG Public Affairs Office, however, said they didn’t receive any information about the Chinese research ship spotted in Ilocos Sur as well as their specific activities in Eastern Samar. (Raymund F. Antonio)