By Priam Nepomuceno

Philippine Marines in Balabac, Palawan for Exercise “Balikatan” on Friday (April 26, 2024) (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – Another vessel of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) was spotted Sunday near the “Balikatan” multilateral maritime exercise (MME) area off Palawan waters.

The PLAN vessel (bow number 578) was spotted around 9 a.m. between seven and eight nautical miles of the MME flotilla, sailing in the northern part of Palawan as of this posting, Western Command (Wescom) spokesperson Capt. Ariel Joseph Coloma said in an interview.

“I cannot speak for them but we are monitoring them, and we record then we report whatever our ships are monitoring in the area,” he said when asked what the Chinese vessel was doing.

Coloma said the first PLAN vessel (bow number 793) spotted Saturday was no longer in the vicinity.

Filipino, American and French naval vessels conducted a search and rescue training with photo exercise Sunday.

The ships are the Philippine Navy’s offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16) and landing dock BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602); USS Navy’s landing ship dock USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49); and French Navy’s Floreal-class frigate FS Vendémiaire (FFH-734).

Coloma said they were not bothered by the presence of the uninvited ship as there was no provocation.

“As long (as) we continue to monitor and report them, we are in control of the situation, and besides tuloy-tuloy pa rin naman ang exercises (and besides the exercises are still ongoing),” he added.

The MME started April 25 and will end April 29. (PNA)