MANILA, Philippines – It appears the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning did pass Philippine waters after all, based on a map tracking the warship’s passage published by several Taiwanese media outfits.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters on Thursday, July 25, that Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua denied reports that the Liaoning passed Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi recently, but admitted instead that several smaller Chinese warships did.
The map image appeared on the OedoSoldier Twitter account on June 20, as well as on the Facebook page Philippine Defense Forces Forum, which said: “Taiwan has released its tracking of China's aircraft carrier Liaoning and 5 other warships of the PLA-N (People’s Liberation Army-Navy). The PLA-N (Carrier Strike Group) CSG's transit to the SCS (South China Sea) brought it close to the US territory of Guam before it changed course and headed southwest and down Mindanao and entered the SCS [West Philippine Sea] south of Palawan.”
The South China Morning Post reported on June 25 that the Liaoning and 5 of its escort vessels passed through the Taiwan Strait coming from the South China Sea. This is consistent with the June 20 map that showed the Liaoning entering the South China Sea.
Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal posted the map on social media on Friday, July 26, saying, “Oh, here it is: route of the Liaoning's recent transit thru southern PH waters…"
Oh, here it is: route of the Liaoning's recent transit thru southern PH waters... https://t.co/tbBm5Y21VE — Jay L Batongbacal (@JayBatongbacal) July 26, 2019
Last week, on July 19, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio told reporters on the sidelines of a forum at the University of the Philippines Diliman that the Liaoning recently passed through the Sibutu Strait.
Although Sibutu Strait is within the country’s territorial waters, it has been declared an international sea lane where foreign commercial ships have the right of innocent passage.
In the case of navy ships, however, foreign states must notify the Philippines of their passage, said Lorenzana.
Carpio had criticized China’s “double standard” as it would not have allowed Philippine vessels easy passage in its own waters, or even Philippine waters China claims for itself. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.