China harasses Philippine Coast Guard vessel with laser
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has accused a Chinese coast guard ship of directing a “military-grade” laser at one of its vessels, putting the Filipino crew in danger.
The PCG vessel was supporting a rotation and resupply mission of the Philippine Navy in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea on Feb. 6.ADVERTISEMENThttps://b9f381ffca2d56aa73210508b3aa6731.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html
The China Coast Guard (CCG) ship with bow No. 5205 illuminated a green light twice toward the BRP Malapascua, causing temporary blindness to crew members on duty at the bridge or main command center at past 6 p.m. as the ship reached 19.5 kilometers (10 nautical miles) from the shoal, the PCG said.
“The PCG condemns any actions that harm and jeopardize the safety of everyone regardless of nationality,” PCG commandant Adm. Artemio Abu said.
The Chinese ship crossed the bow of the PCG ship at a distance of 7.4 km (4 nautical miles), as if to warn BRP Malapascua to stop or alter course.
This was followed by “dangerous maneuvers,” with CCG 5205 a close distance of about 150 yards from the starboard quarter of the Philippine vessel before the Chinese ship shone its laser.
Radio challenges were exchanged throughout, with the Chinese coast guard warning the Philippine ship that it was “in the jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China.”
Ayungin Shoal, a submerged reef 194 km off Palawan province, is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone where the Philippine Navy maintains its presence through the decrepit BRP Sierra Madre.ADVERTISEMENT
China, however, claims almost all of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.
The Regional Coordinating Center in Palawan ordered the BRP Malapascua to alter its course and support the BRP Teresa Magbanua for the PCG’s own resupply mission to its substations in the Kalayaan Island Group.
‘Shadowed and harassed’
Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG adviser of the commandant for maritime security, told the Inquirer that the temporary blindness of the crew on duty lasted for about 10 to 15 seconds, “but we don’t know if it would cause long-term medical effects.”ADVERTISEMENThttps://b9f381ffca2d56aa73210508b3aa6731.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html
It was not the first time that China directed a laser beam at a Philippine ship, he said.
In June last year, the PCG tugboat BRP Habagat, while 10 nautical miles north of the Philippine-occupied Panata (Lankiam Cay) Island, was “shadowed and harassed” by a People’s Liberation Army Navy vessel.
The Chinese navy ship directed its searchlight at BRP Habagat for 20 minutes and flashed “blue-colored lights with blinkers” at the tugboat’s bridge, which also resulted in momentary blindness and skin itchiness among the crew on duty, Tarriela said.