Philippine Navy ships used “bashing maneuvers” to drive away three fishing boats from mainland China that tried to occupy an island off Palawan in the West Philippine Sea on Tuesday, military sources said.
The fishing boats were in the vicinity of Ayungin Reef, also known as the Second Thomas Reef, when the Philippine Navy ships arrived and made “circling maneuvers” that forced the Chinese to move out, the source said.
“They were forced to back-off several miles from Ayungin Reef after our ships arrived in the area,” said the source who spoke to the Manila Standard on condition of anonymity.
Ayungin Reef, which is adjacent to Mischief Reef or Panganiban Reef, is only 150 miles off Palawan and 620 miles from southwest China. It was occupied by the Philippines in 1973.
The Chinese has occupied Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, which the Philippines has claimed as part of its territory. Filipino fishermen have been barred from entering the area.
The Philippine Navy has sent three ships—a Peacock Class offshore patrol, a frigate-type PS 74, and Personnel Carrer bessel PS 71—to the area to prevent the Chinese from coming back, the source said.
“At present they [the three fishing boats] are seen stationary several miles off Ayungin Reef. We are monitoring their movements,” the source said.
At the Scarborough Shoal, three Chinese vessels enforced a no-entry zone with a thick rope tied between two points of the shoal to prevent the entry of Filipino fishermen.
“Filipino fishermen are shooed away and threatened by the Chinese vessels that patrol the surrounding waters of Scarborough Shoal,” the source said.
Pagasa Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon, who was sailing back to Pagasa Island from Ayungin on an outrigger boat with 147 people on board, said they were chased by an unidentified patrol ship last Wednesday.
He said in a text message the patrol boat beamed a search light on them but it did not stop them from proceeding to their destination.
A Philippine Navy official said they were investigating the report.
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