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Filipino boat with TV news crew onboard chased off by Chinese missile boats in West Philippine Sea

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Apr 09, 2021 11:51 am Updated Apr 09, 2021 5:56 pm

Armed Chinese vessels tailed and chased off a Filipino boat with a TV news crew onboard while on a trip in the West Philippine Sea.

ABS-CBN correspondent Chiara Zambrano and her team were on their way to Ayungin shoal when they saw a white Chinese vessel heading straight for them. The Coast Guard ship soon asked who they were and their business in the area.

Even after the Filipino boat turned around, the Chinese coast guard vessel continued to pursue them for at least an hour. But after the Chinese vessel withdrew, it was soon replaced by two Type 22 Houbei fast attack crafts.

Zambrano identified the bigger vessel as ship number 5501, while the Type 22 fast attack crafts were missile-armed. 

Type 22 missile boat (US Naval Institute)

Zambrano said that based on GPS data, the incident happened around 90 nautical miles near the island of Palawan, which was well within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines

“Pumunta kami dito para tanungin o alamin sa mga mangigisdang Pinoy kung ano ang ikinatatakot nila sa paglalayag sa West Philippine Sea at hindi namin inaasahan, kabayan, na mismo kami ay mararanasan at makikita namin ang mga ganitong ka-powerful na vessel," Zambrano said through TV Patrol.

Zambrano also noted that there was no Philippine Navy posted near the scene.

In a tweet on April 9, a day after the incident, the ABS-CBN reporter said she was finally on dry land.

In an ANC interview with Karen Davila, Vice President Leni Robredo said the country should uphold the 2016 arbitral ruling and "team up" with neighboring SEA countries to face China's takeover.

Despite the threats, Robredo said that the firm stance by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the Department of Foreign Affairs remain a "source of comfort".

Sen. Risa Hontiveros also condemned the incident.

"Kung maliitin pa rin ng Palasyo ang pangyayaring ito, ano pa ang silbi ng posisyon ninyo? Ang mga Pilipino ang dapat nating pinaglilingkuran, hindi ang dayuhan."

The Department of Foreign Affairs has also released a statement reaffirming talks between Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin, Jr. and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken regarding the 70-year standing Mutual Defense Treaty sought to protect the Philippines in light of attacks from Chinese vessels.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has also probed the incident, statng that they have approached Zambrano and her team to provide footage and photographs "to help establish the circumstances and document the incident."

"Amidst the situation, the AFP reiterates its commitment to follow the dictates of the Constitution to protect the people and secure our sovereignty and sovereign rights," shared AFP spox, Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo.