A highly-placed source said the Navy deployed the PN PS36, a Peacock Class offshore patrol, a frigate-type (PS 74) and a personnel carrier vessel (PS 71) to the Ayungin Reef and Hasahasa islet to monitor the presence of the Chinese vessels.
The source said that the Chinese frigate has yet to arrive at the Ayungin Reef, while the two civilian ships were fast approaching the reefs.
Chinese vessels were also spotted near the Hasasa Reef, which is located near Ayungin.
“As of now they have not entered Ayungin Reef and Hasasa shoal but the three Navy vessels were dispatched to monitor the behavior of the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea,” the source said.
Ayungin Reef, also known as Second Thomas Reef, is adjacent to Mischief Reef or Panganiban Reef, 150 miles off Palawan and 620 miles Southeast of China.
The Ayungin Reef was occupied by the country in 1973.
The Hasahasa Shoal, is a tiny island located a few miles off Ayungin and is estimated to be 170 miles off Palawan.
Both Ayungin and Hasahasa are located within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the 200-nautical mile boundary as defined by international sea law.
The source said that reports persist that the Chinese had started erecting structures in Ayungin, including metal and ropes to serve as markers.
On Tuesday, China Daily reported that China had sent a fishing flotilla of some 30 vessels which were dispatched to Spratly, parts of which are being contested by the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Brunie and Malaysia.
Meanwhile, an article in People’s Daily reported on Thursday that
China intends to double its offshore air patrols by 2015, based on a government report released on Wednesday.
China’s Ocean Development Report (2013), which was released by the China Institute for Marine Affairs under the State Oceanic Administration, emphasizes the importance of offshore air patrols to the country’s maritime law enforcement.
According to the report, by 2015 the country’s marine surveillance force will include fixed-wing aircraft with a range of more than 4,500 kilometers.
By 2020, a variety of aircraft with different ranges will be available for different purposes, according to the report.
China has undertaken regular patrols of the waters in the East China Sea since July 2006, and conducted regular patrols over the waters of the South China Sea since December 2007.
During the past year, Sino-Japanese relations have become increasingly strained because of Japan’s repeated provocations over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. The waters in the South China Sea remains troubled since a Philippine warship entered China’s territorial waters around Huangyan Island and harassed Chinese fishermen in April last year.
Besides offshore air patrols, the report estimates that the gross domestic product involving the country’s marine sectors will increase by 15 percent annually until 2030.
The GDP involving the marine sectors in 2012 increased 7.9 percent year-on-year to more than 5 trillion yuan ($814 billion), accounting for 9.6 percent of the country’s GDP.
Photo: SOUTH CHINA SEA (March 14, 2010) - Republic of the Philippines Navy ship BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS 36) steams in formation for a photography exercise as a part of exercise Balikatan 2010 (BK 10). Essex, commanded by Capt. Troy Hart, is part of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is participating in BK 10, an annual, bilateral exercise designed to improve interoperability between the U.S. and Republic of the Philippines. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark R. Alvarez/Released)