MANILA, Philippines ( Associated Press) – Last month a Chinese Coast Guard ship maneuvered near a research vessel deployed by Philippine and Taiwanese scientists to conduct a critical survey of underwater fault lines west of the northern Philippines, allowing the board Concern grew among scientists. officials said on Thursday.
Scientists from R/V Legend, including five Filipinos, proceeded with their research from March 25 to March 30, despite the presence of a Chinese Coast Guard ship, around the waters of the Manila Trench, underwater from the northwestern Philippine town of Wigan. In the province of Ilocos Sur. A Filipino scientist told the Associated Press that the Chinese coast guard’s proximity raised concerns as the research vessel was pulling a survey cable into the ocean.
The ongoing offshore survey – a joint project of the National Institute of Geological Sciences at the University of the Philippines and the National Central University in Taiwan – aims to help map offshore faults and other geological features that could potentially lead to earthquakes, tsunamis and other earthquakes in the future. can set. catastrophic danger in the area. The month-long research is partly funded by the Philippine Department of Science and Technology and will end on April 13.
According to Carla DiMalanta of the National Institute of Geological Sciences, the Chinese Coast Guard ship traveled about 2 to 3 nautical miles (3 to 5 kilometers) from the R/V legend for several days.
“Its proximity to the research vessel was a cause for concern, especially since the research vessel was pulling a streamer cable for scientific measurements,” Dimalanta told the Associated Press in response to an email to questions about the incident.
It did not say whether the Chinese Coast Guard had warned the research vessel that it had illegally entered Chinese territorial waters and should be turned away immediately, with the Chinese Coast Guard frequently visiting foreign ships and its outposts in the south. A radio alert has been issued to ships cruising near. The China Sea, which Beijing claims virtually wholly.
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have been locked in an increasingly tense regional standoff in the busy waterway for decades.
The Manila Trench, which runs off the west coast of the main northern Philippine island of Luzon in the shores of the South China Sea, has long been an area of concern because of the potential disaster it could cause if a major earthquake and tsunami could occur. The busy waterway that borders several countries including China, Taiwan and the Philippines.
It was not immediately known whether the Philippine government had expressed its concern over the movement of the Chinese Coast Guard near the scientific research vessel. Two Filipino officials told the Associated Press that the Philippine military was aware of the incident. He spoke on condition of anonymity due to lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly.
There was no immediate comment from Chinese Embassy officials in Manila.
Late last month, the Philippine Coast Guard said Chinese coast guard ships had maneuvered dangerously close to their patrol ships in the area around the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the northwestern Philippines at least four times in the past year. The Philippine Coast Guard said the movement of Chinese Coast Guard ships increased the risk of a collision and violated international security rules.
In one of those dangerous movements, a Chinese Coast Guard ship moved just 21 yards (63 ft) from a Philippine Coast Guard patrol vessel and struck its ground in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal in a “clear breach” of 1972 international security. Restricted space to maneuver. The Philippine Coast Guard said regulation aimed at preventing maritime collisions, which reported the incidents to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila.
China’s seizure of the Scarborough Shoal prompted the Philippines to bring the disputes to international arbitration. In 2016, a United Nations-backed tribunal invalidated most of China’s claims, saying it had violated the Philippines’ rights to fish the shoal.
China dismissed the ruling as a sham and continued to disregard it but allowed Filipino fishermen to return to the shoal under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has enjoyed close ties with Beijing since taking office in 2016. nurtured. Despite warm relations, sporadic territorial disputes persisted.
Two weeks ago, US Indo-Pacific Commander Adm. John C. Aquilino told the Associated Press aboard a US Navy reconnaissance plane that China had completely militarized, armed, and armed three of the seven islands it built in the disputed Spratly Archipelago in the South China Sea. An increasingly aggressive move with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment and military aircraft that threatens all countries operating in disputed waters.
China responded by saying that “the deployment of essential national defense facilities on its territory is the right of every sovereign country and in accordance with international law, which is beyond condemnation.”