MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines described as "very troubling" the presence of US and China navies inside its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) last week when their ships figured in an incident off the coast of Subic Bay. (READ: China seizes US naval underwater probe in South China Sea)
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said it is "very troubling" because it risks a confrontation between the two military superpowers very near the country's mainland. It also threatens to violate the country's exclusive rights over resources in the area.
"Not only does it increase the likelihood of miscalculations that could lead to open confrontation very near the Philippine mainland but the commission of activities other than innocent passage which impinge upon the right of the Philippines over the resources in its EEZ are violations of the Phil rights over its EEZ," Lorenzana said in a statement issued Monday afternoon, December 19.
The US publicly protested how the Chinese Navy on Friday, December 16, snatched one of its underwater drones just as a US Navy ship was attempting to retrieve it 50 nautical miles off the coast of its former naval base in Zambales province.
The US Navy was sending radio messages to demand the return of the underwater drone but the Chinese Navy ignored the calls.
Lorenzana said he hopes that the US and China can resolve the issue and make sure that it won't happen again.
"I believe that the United States and China can reach an amicable resolution to prevent any further incidents from taking place," Lorenzana said.
Days after the US protested, China said it will return the drone to the US. But China slammed the superpower for "hyping up" the incident.
The Philippines said it was not aware that the US Navy was operating an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) inside its EEZ until after it was seized by China. (READ: US alerts PH after China seized its underwater drone off Subic)
The US maintained that the US Navy was conducting "routine operations in accordance with international law." US claimed the underwater drone was not spying, but was gathering military oceanographic data such as salinity, water temperature, and sound speed.
It appears that the Chinese Navy ship had been tailing the US Navy ship. – Rappler.com