China deploys ‘monster’ ship near disputed shoal

The deployment of China Coast Guard ship 5901 follows a tense sea encounter between Filipino sailors and Chinese personnel.
BenarNews staff
China deploys ‘monster’ ship near disputed shoal China Coast Guard 5901 is the world’s largest coast guard vessel.
China Coast Guard

The Philippine military said Tuesday that China had deployed what is believed to be the world’s largest coast guard vessel near a rusting naval ship, which serves as Manila’s outpost at a disputed South China Sea shoal.

China Coast Guard (CCG) ship 5901 was spotted patrolling near Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal on Monday, Filipino military spokesman Col. Xerxes Trinidad said. 

The alleged sighting came a week after a Filipino sailor lost a finger during a tense standoff between Philippine military and CCG personnel near the BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded navy ship that serves as a military outpost in the shoal and is manned by marines. 

The presence in contested waters of the 12,000 ton-Chinese vessel – dubbed “The Monster” by maritime security experts – “is part of a broader pattern of intrusive patrols aimed at asserting unlawful claims over areas within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” Trinidad said in a statement.

The Philippine military said the CCG vessel was spotted near the unoccupied Sabina Shoal on Monday. 

On June 19, it was also seen cruising near Philippine-occupied Thitu (Pag-asa) island. Last month, it was seen near Scarborough Shoal, which lies within Manila’s EEZ but has been under Beijing’s de facto control since 2012.

China claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety, putting it at odds with the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

On Tuesday, the Chinese Embassy in Manila did not respond immediately to BenarNews requests for comment.

Xerxes Trinidad said the Philippine military remained “vigilant and steadfast” in performing its mission to uphold international maritime laws, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“We emphasize that such actions by the CCG are illegal, coercive, and contrary to the spirit of maintaining peace and stability in the region,” he said.

“We call on all nations to respect international law and to refrain from actions that escalate tensions in the [West Philippine Sea],” he added, referring to South China Sea waters that fall within Manila’s EEZ.

PH-CH-SCS-disputed-shoal 2.jpeg
A screengrab from maritime expert Ray Powell’s X account shows the track of the China Coast Guard ship 5901 as it passed nearby the BRP Sierra Madre at the Second Thomas Shoal, June 23, 2024. [Ray Powell/X]

Rear Adm. Roy Vincent Trinidad, the Navy spokesman for the West Philippine Sea, said the deployment of CCG 5901 was part of China’s policing territorial claims that were rejected through a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

“They (Chinese) would like to enforce their own version of international law,” he said. The official said he did not want to speculate on the timing of the CCG vessel’s visit, but stressed that it was intruding into Manila’s EEZ.

Managing tensions

Also on Tuesday, the Philippines said it was seeking talks with China to manage tensions in the South China Sea. 

“We will pursue the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international laws, specifically the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Arbitral Award,” said Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo during a Senate hearing.

“We have been working hard to bring back China to the table to talk with us to resolve differences on these issues,” he added.

The Philippines and China have an existing mechanism for dialogue on issues surrounding the South China Sea called the bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM). 

The next BCM meeting will be in July and they will work “at some kind of confidence-building measures,” Manalo said.

“So, we will continue to pursue these efforts, and also let me just assure the committee and the Filipino people that while we are seeking the approach for a peaceful resolution through international law and diplomacy, of course, we are not blind to the incidents which are happening,” he said.

“We will ensure that whatever confidence-building measures we achieve, they will not be at the expense of the promotion of our sovereignty, sovereign rights as well as our rights and jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea,” Manalo said.

Jason Gutierrez contributed to this report from Manila and Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales from Davao City, southern Philippines.


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