Philippines Successfully Drives Away 7 Chinese Vessels 

The Chinese vessels were anchored in Sabina Shoal.

A combined fleet from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) successfully drove away seven Chinese ships within the West Philippine Sea on April 27.

The PCG and BFAR vessels were conducting maritime drills in the West Philippine Sea near Sabina Shoal when they sighted seven paramilitary ships from China. 

Sabina Shoal is located 120 kilometers from Palawan, well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone. The PCG discovered the Chinese paramilitary vessels anchored at the shoal. 

According to the PCG, they radioed the Chinese vessels three times, but they were ignored. That’s when they decided to send three vessels to the shoal to challenge the Chinese. Not wanting to figure in a confrontation, the Chinese vessels reportedly left the area. 


Philippines Emboldened 

The Philippines has been more proactive in recent weeks in asserting itself in the West Philippine Sea, emboldened in no little part by the renewed commitment by the United States in its Mutual Defense Treaty obligations. 

The U.S. has specifically stated any attack on Philippine vessels would trigger its Mutual Defense Treaty obligations. 

“An armed attack against the Philippines armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty," the U.S. State Department warned.

In the past, the U.S. had been reluctant to clarify its MDT obligations, stating only attacks that happen within territorial waters, not disputed waters, would trigger its obligations. 

It can be remembered back in March when China occupied Julian Felipe Reef with 220 paramilitary ships. Most of these were driven away when the Philippines and the U.S. combined their most advanced warships and sent the impressive fleet to the area. By April 13, the Chinese vessels at Julian Felipe Reef numbered fewer than 10.


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