By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter
A PHILIPPINE government vessel on Sunday reported a recent close distance maneuvering incident involving a China Coast Guard (CCG) ship in Scarborough Shoal.
The Philippine Coast Guard said it was the fourth time within a 10-month period since May last year that CCG ships sailed too close to Philippine vessels, a “clear violation of the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).”
“The behavior of the involved CCG vessels increased the risk of collision with four of our capital ships,” said PCG commandant, Artemio M. Abu in a statement on Sunday.
“Hence, we immediately coordinated with the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to address this issue through rules-based and peaceful approaches,” he said.
The most recent incident was on March 2 where a “CCG vessel with bow number 3305 conducted a close distance maneuvering of approximately 21 yards towards BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402) while the said PCG vessel was sailing at the vicinity waters off” Scarborough Shoal, which the Philippines calls Bajo de Masinloc.
The first incident, which involved a vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources manned by PCG personnel, was reported in May 2021.
The second and third incidents were reported by two PCG vessels during a maritime capability enhancement exercise on June 1 to 2 last year.
“We are fully aware of dangerous situations at sea, but these will not stop our deployment of assets and personnel in Bajo de Masinloc, Philippine Rise, and other parts of the country’s exclusive economic zones (EEZ),” Mr. Abu said.
SEA DISPUTE, OTHER POLICIESPresident Rodrigo R. Duterte’s handling of the country’s territorial dispute with China topped the policies that Filipino voters want to change once a new president is elected after the May 9 elections, according to a survey conducted by a public opinion research firm last year.
WR Numero Research, citing its 2021 survey, said in a statement sent to BusinessWorld that 45.13% of Filipino voters want the new administration to “deviate from President Duterte’s soft China approach in asserting the country’s claims” over the West Philippine Sea.
Mr. Duterte has been accused of gambling Philippine territories to appease China, from which he got about P1.2 trillion in investment and loan pledges to boost big-ticket infrastructure projects. But critics said few of these have materialized.
The survey also revealed that Filipino voters want changes in how the government handled ABS-CBN Corp.’s franchise renewal as well as in the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, which was cited by 44.27% and 24.77% of the respondents, respectively.
It also showed that a portion or 12.49% of the electorate wants a change in how the government runs its campaign against the illegal drug trade, which has killed thousands of suspects.
Filipino voters also want a change in the “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program (7.18%), as well as in granting the free tuition fee in state universities (4.93%), WRN said.
“While some respondents want change in the massive infrastructure program, the BBB also emerged as the top choice that voters want the new administration to continue,” it said.
The research firm said around 66% of the respondents preferred the administration’s infrastructure program, followed closely by the free higher education program (64.6%), and the drug war (60.83%).
It said only 16.55% preferred the TRAIN law, while 15.75% and 11.87% want the same handling of the South China Sea dispute and the same approach to ABS-CBN franchise, respectively.
WRN said it used several levels of statistical intervention in its digital surveys to arrive at accurate results.
“The firm conducted a digital survey of 1,200 unique respondents with a 95% confidence interval from a high-quality online panel that is representative of all classes.”