MANILA – The Puerto Princesa, Palawan-based Western Command (Wescom) on Thursday confirmed that a China People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessel pointed its gun control director at the BRP Conrado Yap off the vicinity off Rizal Reef Detachment, Kalayaan Island Group in February.
“The Western Command confirms that the incident happened on February 17, 2020 through the report received from the Joint Task Force West (JTFW) and as revealed by the Commanding Officer of BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39),” Wescom head, Vice Admiral Rene Medina said in a press statement.
Based on reports from JTFW, the BRP Conrado Yap left Puerto Princesa Pier on February 15 to conduct territorial defense operations and sovereignty patrol at Malampaya Natural Gas to Power Project and at the Kalayaan Island Group in the West Philippine Sea.
While en route to the Rizal Reef Detachment, the ship’s crew detected on radar a gray-colored vessel, prompting the Filipino naval craft to issue a radio challenge.
At this point, the other ship responded by saying “the Chinese government has (immutable) sovereignty over the South China Sea, its islands and its adjacent waters”.
BRP Conrado Yap again challenged the vessel and then instructed to proceed directly to its next destination to which the Chinese ship repeated its earlier response and maintained its course and speed.
“Significantly, PS-39 was able to identify the said vessel as PLAN Vessel bearing a bow number 514 (corvette). There, PS-39 was able to visually observed that the gun control director, an equipment that gives information in obtaining a fire control solution of said PLAN vessel was directed towards PS-39. This gun control director can be used to designate and track targets and makes all the main guns ready to fire in under a second,” Medina said.
While BRP Conrado Yap does not have electronic support measures to confirm that the gun control director was directed at it, Medina said visual identification confirmed this hostile intent of the Chinese vessel.
“This hostile act on the part of (the) Chinese government and encroachment within the Philippines’ EEZ is perceived as a clear violation of international law and Philippine sovereignty,” Medina said.
While the ships were able to continue their respective voyage after that incident, he said Wescom has reported this incident to higher headquarters.
“The Western Command as the AFP’s primary unit in the West Philippine Sea will continue to perform its duty and will never be intimidated nor let our guards down in protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the Philippines and will support any future capability upgrade of our ships patrolling our Philippine Waters,” Medina said.
The incident prompted Manila, through the Department of Foreign Affairs to file diplomatic protests against Beijing on Wednesday.
“At 5:17 p.m. today (Wednesday), the Chinese embassy received 2 diplomatic protests: 1. on the pointing of a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in Philippine waters and 2. declaring parts of Philippine territory as part of Hainan province,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a Twitter post. (PNA)