SOS! CHINA SHIP GOT STUCK AT PHILIPPINE SHOAL; PH DUTY-BOUND TO HELP

[PHOTO -
SOS! STRANDED?: A Chinese frigate ran aground at Hasa-Hasa Shoal.]

MANILA, JULY 16, 2012 (STANDARD) By Florante S. Solmerin - The government wants to know why a Chinese frigate, which ran aground at Hasahasa Shoal, was in Philippine territorial waters and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has ordered the military’s Western Command to investigate the new Chinese incursion.

“We will know why that ship was there,” Gazmin said after he ordered Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of the military’s Western Command to determine if the Chinese frigate needs assistance.

Malacanang spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Philippines is duty-bound to render assistance to the Chinese warship.

“Dispute or no dispute, of course we will render assistance if needed,” Valte said in an interview aired over government-run dzRB radio station.

The Department of Foreign Affairs also said it would have to determine what really happened to the frigate before it makes any comment.

“We need to find out what really happened with the Chinese frigate in our territory,” said DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez. “For now, we have instructed our Embassy in Beijing to inform the Chinese Foreign Ministry that Philippine assets are willing to help the frigate get out of there.”

At presstime Saturday, officials were still trying to get a visual confirmation of the vessel’s situation in the shoal which is located only 65 nautical miles west of the island-town of Balabac in Palawan.

“As of now, we are preparing our assets and I cannot give you an official statement since we don’t have yet a visual report. The Coast Guard was already proceeding to the area,” said Commodore Rustom Pena, commander of the Naval Forces Western Command.

The Chinese themselves confirmed the incident on Friday after embassy spokesman Hua Zhang issued a statement to journalists.

The embassy identified the warship as “a People’s Liberation Army Navy vessel, or believed to be No.560, a Jianghu-class frigate.”

Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry decried reports that the Philippines will offer oil exploration contracts in the West Philippine Sea, saying that such an action would violate “China’s interest”. Sara Susanne D. Fabunan


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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