Chinese vessels once again engaged in confrontations with Philippine ships in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a recurring scenario, China dispatched its coast guard and militia fleets to the West Philippine Sea, precisely when Philippine vessels were carrying out a resupply operation on an island within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The recent incident, which occurred on Friday, was highlighted by Ray Powell, a national security expert based in the United States. According to Powell, data from the automatic identification system (AIS) revealed that four China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels and 32 militia ships were mobilized from Mischief Reef, an island within the Philippines’ EEZ. The Chinese government had stationed these vessels there since May of the same year.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship, BRP Cabra, was spotted escorting smaller vessels on their way to conduct a resupply mission at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, a location where several Navy personnel were stationed. Powell noted that there was a disproportionate reaction to a single 44-meter PCG vessel escorting wooden boats.

Subsequently, another PCG vessel, the BRP Malabrigo, joined the BRP Cabra in its mission. As they approached Ayungin Shoal from the eastern direction, CCG 5402 and four militia vessels intercepted them, according to Powell, who is associated with Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation. He also mentioned that two CCG vessels, 4203 and 5204, went dark on the AIS system but were likely in close proximity.

Powell further observed that China’s militia ship, Qiong Sansha Yu 00402, appeared to have maneuvered dangerously close to the BRP Malabrigo, which prompted the latter to execute an abrupt course reversal. Although the precise positions of the vessels were challenging to confirm via AIS, Powell suggested that the unexpected change in course might have been a reaction to an unsafe Chinese maneuver. (ai/mnm)