FIVE Chinese warships passed Sibutu Strait anew without permission from Philippine authorities, a military official said on Wednesday.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) said two Chinese warships were spotted in July and three in August.
Sobejana said the Chinese ships “were not hostile” although what they did was “not an innocent passage.”
“Because when you say innocent passage, it’s only a straight line while they had curved route. That is no longer considered as innocent passage,” Sobejana told reporters in a phone patch at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
The Chinese ships were spotted during WestMinCom’s aerial and naval patrols of the area, Sobejana said.
He did not say, however, if the military would be recommending the filing of another diplomatic protest, deferring to the national government to make that decision.
Chinese warships encroachment in Philippine waters
Chinese warships in Tawi-Tawi
It apparently was not the aircraft carrier Liaoning, but several Chinese warships did sail through the Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi 4 times since February without informing Philippine authorities, confirmed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy should have notified the government ahead of its passage through Philippine waters, Lorenzana added, even if Sibutu Strait is an international waterway where foreign ships have the “right of innocent passage.”
“Kung mga warships ‘yan (If those are warships), they should inform us that they are passing,” Lorenzana told reporters on Thursday, July 25, as the Philippine Coast Guard presented newly-acquired assets at its headquarters at the Port of Manila.
Last Friday, July 19, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio revealed in a forum in Quezon City that the Liaoning passed through Sibutu Strait that day, and later on clarified that it happened “2 to 3 weeks ago.”
Sought for comment by Rappler, Lorenzana said then that he had not received any report from the military regarding a Chinese ship passing through Sibutu Strait, and that “there is no need to ask permission if it is innocent passage.”
Chinese warships in Palawan
Four Chinese navy vessels have passed through Palawan waters in June without informing Philippine authorities and disregarded radio warnings of the military, the Western Command said Tuesday.
Wescom chief Vice Adm. Rene Medina said that one Chinese Navy vessel navigated in the vicinity waters off Balabac, Palawan’s southernmost town, in the afternoon of June 17 and was “unresponsive” to the radio warnings of their operating unit.
Another gray ship that passed by in the same area later that evening only disclosed thru radio its bow number and nothing else, while the two other Chinese navy ships that sailed along with it did not respond to the Philippine military’s radio calls, he also said in a press briefing in Palawan.
This information, he noted, was the basis of “higher headquarters” to recommend diplomatic action.