China Coast Guard ship spotted patrolling Ayungin Shoal

MANILA, Philippines – While China Coast Guard officials were in Manila for a “friendly visit," one of their vessels was seen near Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea on Tuesday night, January 14.

The track of a certain CCG vessel 5402 showed that it sailed in rounds near Ayungin Shoal, a tiny group of islets and reefs about 200 kilometers (120 miles) northwest of  Palawan, the nearest major landmass. 

The photo of the track was posted by Ryan Martinson, an assistant professor at the Chinese Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College.

The Philippines rolls out the red carpet for the Commander of the China Coast Guard. Meanwhile, a China Coast Guard ship steams back and forth, menacing Philippine Marines posted at Second Thomas Shoal. — Ryan Martinson (@rdmartinson88) January 14, 2020

The track showed the boat in the area since January 12, days before the Philippine Coast Guard welcomed the CCG in Manila

Chinese vessels had been frequently spotted near Ayungin Shoal, where a handful of Philippine Marines living on a grounded World War II-era ship serve as the Philippines' last line of defense against China's efforts to control the West Philippine Sea.

In October 2019, the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs ordered the filing of a diplomatic protest against China over the presence of its vessels near Ayungin Shoal 

China has maintained an aggressive military presence in the area, despite a historic 2016 ruling that asserted the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea. The ruling had  invalidated China’s 9 dash-line that it has used to claim the entire the South China Sea.

The vessel was spotted near Ayungin Shoal as CCG officials and personnel visited the Philippines to “deepen cooperation” through talks and exercises with the PCG and the country’s top defense officials. On Wednesday afternoon, the CCG held discussions with the PCG with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in attendance.

The PCG said in an earlier news briefing with reporters that it would raise the CCG’s maritime infractions in their meetings. –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.