MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippine Air Force on Saturday, July 14, spotted at least 5 Chinese maritime vessels conducting rescue operations in Half Moon Shoal, where a Chinese warship was stuck earlier this week.
The Air Force also spotted an unverified number of smaller boats in the area locally known as Hasa-Hasa Shoal, said a Philippine military source who refused to be named.
The source said the Western Command has already taken photos of the Chinese ship, as “rescue operations appear to be ongoing, mainly involving a number of small boats.”
A Philippine Navy patrol ship is also within Half Moon Shoal’s vicinity, and is waiting for directions from authorities.
On Saturday, Western Command spokesperson Lt Col Neil Estrella said the Philippine Navy has deployed a ship to Half Moon Shoal.
Echoing an earlier statement, Estrella said the Navy is ready to assist the Chinese warship in the area, which is within Philippine territory. (Read: PH ready to assist Chinese warship.)
“We are prioritizing assistance because, of course, lives are in danger in that area,” Estrella said in an interview aired on ANC, the ABS-CBN Channel. He added the Navy has “put on standby” all its resources to respond to this situation.
On Saturday, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Philippines is “duty-bound” to assist the Chinese warship.
“Dispute or no dispute we will render assistance, if it’s needed. Allow me to make that clarification because I did see a report from the Chinese embassy saying that the rescue from their side is under way,” said Valte in an interview over the government-run radio dzRB.
An investigation is under way to determine why the Chinese ship is there, Estrella noted.
China, which claims the territory, likewise said it is ready to rescue its ship in Half Moon Shoal, said a statement from the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines on Friday, July 13. The embassy said no personnel was injured in the accident involving the ship. (Read: China says to rescue warship stuck in reef.) – Rappler.com