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China, Philippine coastguard vessels trade warnings in near collision

Image taken from the Philippine Coast Guard vessel BRP Malapascua allegedly showing the near collision with China Coast Guard vessel 5201. The incident is said to have taken place on 23 April 2023 in the South China Sea. (Philippine Coast Guard)

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has accused a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel of carrying out “dangerous manoeuvres” during a recent encounter in the South China Sea.

The encounter began when two PCG Parola-class multirole response vessels (MRRVs) began a seven-day patrol mission in the ‘West Philippine Sea', said the service in a statement issued on 28 April, using Manila's preferred nomenclature for the South China Sea.

The mission took place near several disputed features such as Sabina Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal, which are claimed by both Beijing and Manila as part of their respective maritime territories.

The MRRVs, BRP Malapascua (MRRV-4403) and BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402), encountered more than 100 Chinese maritime militia vessels during its patrol mission around these features, said the PCG. These militia vessels were accompanied by a People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) corvette and two CCG vessels, the service added.

The MRRVs issued radio warnings and deployed rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) to try and disperse the militia vessels. However, these warnings were not heeded, said the PCG.

On 21 April, a PLAN vessel with pennant number 549 attempted to intercept the passage of the MRRVs at Thitu Island, said the service. The pennant number belongs to the Jiangkai II (Type 054A)-class frigate, Changzhou . The PLAN vessel is said to have threatened to “cause problem” to the PCG MRRVs should the latter fail to comply.

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