RP, MALAYSIAN PLANES IN STAND OFF OVER SPRATLYS
Manila, Nov. 1, 1999 - Two Philippine military surveillance planes flying over the disputed Spratly island group Thursday were tailed by two fighter jets believed to be from the Malaysian air force, but Philippine diplomats and defense secretary Orlando Mercado deny that there was any confrontation.
The Malaysian A-4 Skyhawks were flying at lower altitudes and the crew of the Philippine OV-10A Broncos were able to take photographs of them. The incident occurred in the vicinity of Investigator Shoal, which both the Philippines and Malaysia are claiming.
“There was no confrontation. They just saw each other, nothing else happened,'' Mercado said.
The Philippines had protested last June about Malaysia’s construction of a helipad and two-storey structure in Investigator Shoal. Malaysia claimed the shoal was within its exclusive economic zone and the structures were for scientific research.
Just last week, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest with Hanoi, accusing Vietnamese troops of firing at a Philippine military reconnaissance plane flying over a reef in the part of the Spratlys occupied by Vietnam but also claimed by the Philippines. The plane was not hit.
The Estrada government is pushing for a regional code of conduct in the South China Sea to govern actions by rival claimants and prevent accidental conflicts in the area.
It is one of the issues expected to be discussed at an informal summit on November 27-29 of member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
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