maritime security

AFP says 4 Chinese Navy ships passed through Palawan

Bea Cupin

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AFP says 4 Chinese Navy ships passed through Palawan
'As part of standard operating procedure, these vessels were challenged and they responded accordingly,' says the Armed Forces of the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed on Friday, June 21, that four vessels of the Chinese Navy or the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) were monitored passing through within 12 nautical miles off the coast of mainland Palawan on Wednesday, June 19. 

In a statement on Friday, AFP Public Affairs Office chief Colonel Xerxes Trinidad said the four were identified as: 

  • PLAN destroyer Luyang III (DDG-168) 
  • PLAN frigate Jiangkai II (FFG-570)
  • PLAN destroyer Renhai (CG-105)
  • PLAN replenishment oiler Fuchi (AOR-907)

The first two vessels were monitored moving southwest along Balabac Strait with a speed of 13 knots at around 1:49 pm on Wednesday.

The latter two were monitored passing through the same strait and heading toward the same direction at around 3:56 pm with a speed of 15 knots.  

“As part of standard operating procedure, these vessels were challenged and they responded accordingly,” said the AFP. “Responded accordingly” would mean that the Chinese military ships identified themselves and stated their reason for passing through the area. 

“Said area is commonly used by international vessels passing through our waters,” the AFP added. 

“Our capability to monitor and respond to such activities is a testament to our commitment to maritime domain awareness and the protection of our territory, sovereignty, and sovereign rights. Rest assured, the AFP remains vigilant in safeguarding our maritime interests,” said the AFP. 

Palawan locals had earlier raised alarm after the vessels were seen from the shore. 

Balabac Strait connects the South China Sea with the Sulu Sea and is often used by various kinds of vessels of different flags. The strait is one of the proposed designated archipelagic sea lanes in a bill pending before the Senate, and in a counterpart measure already approved by the House of Representatives.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), ships and aircraft should “proceed without delay through or over the strait,” not use “any threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence” of the states around the strait, and “refrain from any activities other than those incident to their normal modes of continuous and expeditious transit unless rendered necessary by force majeure or by distress.” 

The Philippines has yet to designate its archipelagic lanes according to UNCLOS.

The province of Palawan – its mainland, and especially its islands and features in the West Philippine Sea – has been witness to escalating tensions between the Philippines and China. It is in Palawan where the Western Command, the unified command that operates in the West Philippine Sea, is located. Pag-asa Island, the country’s westernmost territory, is under the province.

The Balabac Group of Islands also happens to be among the areas where the United States is allowed expanded military presence under the bilateral Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.