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Chinese 'Research Ship' Just Seeking Shelter in the Philippines, According to the Government

What is this Chinese ship doing in Philippine waters?
IMAGE Philippine Coast Guard
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There is a Chinese ship surveying the waters in and around the Philippines. Based on the photo of the vessel provided by the Philippine Coast Guard, the Chinese ship is equipped with numerous instruments and what appears to be various radar for mapping. 

According to the Coast Guard, the Chinese vessel requested permission to take shelter in the waters off Bato, Catanduanes on January 29, 2021. When the Coast Guard tried to board the Chinese ship in Philippine territorial waters, they were prevented by the crew who cited COVID-19 protocols. 

Ironically, China recently passed a new law allowing its vessels to attack Philippine ships in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippine government slammed the move. 

On January 27, Ryan Martinson of the US Naval War College alerted the Philippines to the return of the "research vessel" in Philippine waters. 

Below is an image provided by the Philippine Coast Guard showing the path taken by the Chinese ship for the past week. 

Photo by Philippine Coast Guard.
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House Calls Inquiry Into 'Incursions'

For some lawmakers, there is something suspicious about the alleged innocent passage of the Chinese research ship in Philippine waters, which is why they called for an inquiry into the incident. 

In 2019, the Department of Foreign Affairs fired off diplomatic protests against China after learning its survey ships had been mapping the Philippine Sea for weeks. The Chinese vessels were suspected of studying the features of Benham Rise, a mineral-rich underwater plateau, which the United Nations awarded to the Philippines in a 2012 ruling as part of the country's continental shelf.

In a deleted tweet, foreign affairs secretary Teddy Locsin revealed the DFA gave the Chinese permission to anchor off Catanduanes. 

“DFA never gave a permit to Jia Geng. But for humanitarian considerations, we ok'd Chinese embassy request for shelter against bad weather. The Coast Guard has zero authority/competence to allow it. Only DFA. Not to stay. But seek shelter. Period. Putangina,” Locsin said in a deleted tweet. 

The secretary later revised his tweet: “DFA never gave permission to Jia Geng. For humanitarian reasons DFA okayed the emergency Chinese embassy request for shelter against bad weather. Request for shelter; not permission to stay and be watched. Period.”

Locsin was referring to the Coast Guard's monitoring of the Chinese vessel as it sailed within the country's territorial waters over which the Philippines has full jurisdiction. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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