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Navy to 'shadow' foreign ships intruding in PH waters



MANILA -- The Philippine Navy (PN) plans to "shadow" or monitor foreign vessels intruding into the country's territorial waters.

This procedure will be implemented, especially if the foreign ship is found out to have failed to seek permission before entering the Philippine waters, PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad told reporters Wednesday.

If the vessel is still not responding to radio calls or communication challenges, and have shut off its automatic identification systems, the next step will be the deployment of aircraft to take pictures of the ship and "shadow" or escort it out of Philippine waters, he added.

If there is still no response from the foreign ship, the next option is to have the "shadowing" ship to "cross the bow" of the intruding vessel but not in a provocative manner, Empedrad said.

This term means having a government ship cut or maneuver near the intruding ship's bow.

He also said that the crew of the Navy ship will not be in "general quarters" while doing this maneuver.

"General quarters" is defined as a signal to all hands aboard that they must be able to go to "battle station" as quickly as possible.

"We will not be doing that (placing ship in 'general quarters'), we (will be just) maneuvering to tell them that they are passing through our territorial waters (without permission) especially if their passage is not (done in a) expeditious (manner)," the PN chief said.

He said that they are still finalizing the protocol as of this time.

Empedrad also said that the PN is not expecting a hostile response from ships being "shadowed" or subjected to these measures.

Earlier, the Department of National Defense (DND) announced that there is a need to coordinate first with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on how to carry out President Rodrigo R. Duterte's instructions, requiring all foreign ships to secure clearance first before entering the country's territorial waters.

"There needs to be SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that clearly define our responses in compliance with existing Philippine and international laws," DND acting spokesperson Undersecretary Cardozo M. Luna said.

The order came in the wake of repeated passing through of foreign vessels, particularly Chinese warships, in Philippine waters without notifying the Philippine government.

The Western Mindanao Command earlier reported that five Chinese naval vessels passed through Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi -- four in July and the last on August 4. (PNA)

Priam Nepomuceno / PNA