The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command (WESCOM) believes that China coast guard did not chase the Filipino boat in the West Philippine Sea that was captured by ABS-CBN News last week.
In the video of the incident, GPS tracking shows how fast the Filipino ferry was speeding to evade the China coast guard but it was still being tracked for almost 1 hour.
AFP Western Command commander Vice Admiral Ramil Roberto Enriquez said the Chinese only observed the Filipino boat.
“Kung talagang hinabol kayo no’n, madali niya kayong inabutan… Inoobserbahan lang kayo no’n,” he said.
Enriquez said that since 2019, the China coast guard has not chased a ship in the Ayungin shoal. He said the China coast guard was just suspicious because the captain did not answer the radio.
“If we follow the dictum of ‘flight is an admission of guilt,’ bigla kayong umalis eh,” said Enriquez.
Filipino boat ‘observed’ not chased by China coast guard: AFP-WESCOM
It is also said that such actions by the China coast guard in the West Philippine Sea are normal and that fishermen can get through to Ayungin if they are accustomed to China’s actions.
But according to maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal, the Filipino crew cannot be blamed for China’s pursuit within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
“Nakakatawa namang isipin na hindi kayo hinabol. Isang oras kayong binuntutan, anong tawag mo doon? Hinabol kayo. Hindi porke di kayo inabutan eh hindi na kayo hinabol… ‘Yung pagsita niya ay hindi ito dapat tanggapin, wala siyang karapatang magpatrolya sa lugar na iyan,” said Batongbacal.
But AFP-WESCOM admits, this is the first time the Houbei type 22 missile attack craft has come to light and the first time it has been seen sailing closer to mainland Palawan.
“This is the first time, kaya gusto naming malaman ‘yung exact locations kung saan nangyari ‘yung paghabol sa inyo because this is the first time they have openly showed the Chinese Houbei class east of Ayungin,” said Enriquez.
The missile boat chased and tailed the Filipino ferry for at least 20 minutes.