China Coast Guard ship arrives in Manila for ‘friendly visit’
MANILA, Philippines – A vessel of the China Coast Guard docked at the Port of Manila at around 2 pm on Monday, January 13, for a “friendly visit” and joint exercises between the Chinese and Philippine coast guards.
The Philippine Coast Guard will officially welcome China Coast Guard (CCG) commandant General Wang Zhongcai and his delegation at Pier 15 of Manila South Harbor on Tuesday morning, January 14. Afterwards, Manila-based journalists will be given an opportunity to tour China Coast Guard vessel 5204.
This is the first time a China Coast Guard ship is officially visiting the Philippines, according to a statement from the Chinese embassy in Manila.
Zhongcai and the crew of the CCG 5204 will be in Manila until Friday, January 17, for a series of talks and exercises which would be the third official meeting of the Joint Coast Guard Committee (JCGC) with the PCG.
Activities for the JCGC meeting include a cross deck visit, rescue and firefighting exercises, a “table top” exercise, discussions, and sports games.
“We believe that the visit will be a very good opportunity for both sides to demonstrate goodwill, deepen mutual understanding and trust as well as enhance friendship and cooperation,” the Chinese embassy said.
PCG Commandant Admiral Joel Garcia said it was his Chinese counterparts that requested the visit and meeting. It is a manifestation of China’s effort to speak with the PCG “once and for all,” Garcia told reporters in a briefing on January 10.
The CCG 5204’s arrival may be the first official visit of a Chinese coast guard ship to the Philippines – but the CCG’s other vessels have maintained a constant presence in certain parts of the West Philippine Sea.
At least 4 CCG ships guard and patrol Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) off Zambales, as was evident from a record of the passage of the Greek-owned, Liberia-flagged oil tanker MV Green Aura through the area in late September 2019.
The CCG ships blocked the Green Aura’s path, and demanded that its Filipino captain change course.
Filipino fishermen from Zambales and Pangasinan have been complaining for years that the CCG have kept them out of Panatag Shoal’s calm and bountiful inner lagoon, all but killing the local fishing industry.
During the summers of 2017 and 2018, Filipino fishermen at Panatag Shoal reported Chinese coast guards climbing their boats and raiding their prized catch. It was even caught on video.
In May 2019, CCG vessel 3305 blocked 3 Philippine civilian ships on a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre grounded on Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratlys), also in the West Philippine Sea.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has reported several sightings of CCG ships prowling the area of Ayungin Shoal around the BRP Sierra Madre, which functions as a Philippine military outpost.
The CCG is a paramilitary force; the PCG is civilian.
Still, the Philippine government said fostering ties with the CCG would help ease tensions in the West Philippine Sea, which an international arbitral award in 2016 affirmed to be within the Philippines’ lawful maritime entitlements, and which China spuriously claims to own.
The JCGC was established in 2017 following an agreement President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping made in Beijing in October 2016.
Under the agreement, the two coast guards would cooperate in combating transnational crime, doing maritime search and rescue, fishery law enforcement, environmental protection, and emergency response. – Rappler.com