Chinese Ships Reportedly Stalk Philippine Warship Patrolling the West Philippine Sea

China has significantly increased its presence in the West Philippine Sea in the past year.

ON Wednesday, February 1, 2023, two Chinese militia vessels reportedly stalked the BRP Andres Bonifacio, which was patrolling Reed Bank, roughly 248 kilometers or 154 miles off the coast of Palawan and within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ). 

The Chinese vessels were initially sighted leaving Panganiban Reef or Mischief Reef, which is 232 kilometers from Reed Bank. According to American defense and security expert Raymond Powell, the Chinese vessels set course for an intercept with the BRP Andres Bonifacio, which changed its course westward to avoid the Chinese vessels. 

In a Twitter post, Powell said the Chinese militia ships "have gone dark" or probably turned off their AIS transponder to avoid identification. 

Powell was still able to monitor the behavior of the three ships in the West Philippine Sea through real-time satellite images. 

Powell concluded his live tweets on Wednesday with a fifth update, saying the BRP Andres Bonifacio seemed to have finished its patrol operations and is returning to port. 

However, on Friday, February 03, Powell noticed that the Chinese militia ship Qiong Sansha Yu 00001 arrived in Panatag Shoal or Scarborough Shoal and was later joined by another ship from the Chinese Coast Guard.

China has stepped up its presence in the West Philippine Sea in 2022, with increased incidences of harassment on Philippine fishing boats in the area. 

According to Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, China has spent 344 days in 2022 patrolling Scarborough Shoal, significantly increasing its presence by 142 compared to 2020. 

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