MANILA, Philippines — Following a report that Chinese navy vessels chased away a Filipino boat with civilians on board in the West Philippine Sea, the Chinese Embassy said.
The Filipino boat carrying an ABS-CBN News team was on its way to Ayungin Shoal but was blocked by a Chinese coast guard vessel.
ABS-CBN reporter Chiara Zambrano reported that two Chinese navy vessels, which appeared to be Type 022 Houbei fast attack crafts, chased them for about an hour as they were returning to mainland Palawan.
According to the report, this happened about 90 nautical miles from mainland Palawan, well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
The Type 022 is a stealth missile fast attack craft of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy that has a top speed of 38 knots.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila, however, such warship "is never used for law enforcement."
"Chasing a civilian boat by such warship is unimaginable," the Chinese Embassy said in a statement.
According to a November 2020 report from Chinese state-run Global Times, the Type 022 is "fast, flexible, stealthy and powerful," making it suitable for coastal defense missions.
It is used against "hostile middle-sized and large ships and combat groups" but can also "confront hostile aircraft and cover larger ships in high sea operations."
While the report said the ship was only suitable for coastal defense, the Chinese navy is looking at "exploring its potential to operate beyond that."
Collin Koh, a maritime security researcher at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, noted that there has been an internal debate within the China Coast Guard after Chinese maritime law enforcement agencies were unified under it.
He further noted that in May 2018, the Chinese coast guard, navy and Sansha local administration authorities tested a response to maritime contingencies.
They tested a method wherein the Chinese navy steps in if they encounter a foreign navy vessel, the Chinese coast guard steps in if they encounter a foreign coast guard vessel and local authorities of Sansha deal with infringements by local fishermen.
"It's clear that the PLA Navy has stepped up its involvement in concert with CCG and other forces, incl. maritime militia, in waters further out into the SCS, especially in the Spratlys. It's no longer just 'white hill' but a combination with 'grey hull," Koh said in a Twitter thread.
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