Chinese navy vessels’ Basilan Strait passage raises local concerns

Frencie Carreon

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Chinese navy vessels’ Basilan Strait passage raises local concerns

PASS THROUGH. A Chinese navy vessel passes through Basilan Strait on Thursday, June 6, 2024.

courtesy of Isabelena Sophia Lim Cruz

The Western Mindanao Command assures that the military in the region remains vigilant and alert

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines – At least two Chinese navy vessels passed through the Basilan Strait on Thursday afternoon, June 6, raising concerns among people in the Zamboanga Peninsula region and Basilan province in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Lieutenant General William Gonzales, Western Mindanao Command chief, assured that the military in the region has remained vigilant and alert following the sighting of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) vessels near Zamboanga City and Basilan.

According to the Naval Forces Western Mindanao, the PLA navy vessels were identified as a training ship and an amphibious transport dock, passing through the Basilan Strait within the Zamboanga Peninsula.

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“One of the vessels, Qi Jiquang (BN-83) responded that it was conducting normal navigation from its last port of call in Dili, Timor Leste en route to Dalian, China,” read a part of a military statement from Camp Aguinaldo.

“In accordance with standard operating procedure, the AFP dispatched BRP Domingo Deluana (PG-905) to shadow or monitor the passage of the two PLA Navy vessels. Our escorting vessel also issued a standard challenge to the Chinese warships,” it added.

A military official in Zamboanga, however, cited reports from Basilan that there were actually three ships sighted: the Duludao-class dispatch ship, Dong-Jiao 93, of the PLA Navy (PLAN) East Sea Fleet, the Type 071 amphibious transport ship, Jinggang Shan, with pennant number 999, and another similar ship from the PLA.

Retired Rear Admiral Donn Anthony Miraflor, former Naval Forces Western Mindanao commander, said there is a principle in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which deals with straits used for international navigation.

Based on the UNCLOS, the right of transit passage allows vessels and aircraft of all nations to navigate through straits used for international navigation between one part of the high seas or an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and another part of the high seas or EEZ. Such right facilitates international navigation and ensures ships can pass through these crucial maritime routes without unnecessary hindrance, provided they comply with certain regulations to ensure safety and the protection of the marine environment.

The Basilan Strait is considered an international strait under UNCLOS. It serves as a significant navigational route connecting the Sulu Sea to the Moro Gulf, which in turn links to the Celebes Sea and broader international waters. 

Based on the principle, ships from all countries have the right to pass through the Basilan Strait for continuous and expeditious transit, provided that they comply with regulations established by the the Philippines for safety and environmental protection. –

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