MANILA, Apr 5 (Mabuhay) –A Chinese navy vessel was observing the conduct of war games between Filipino and American soldiers in Philippine waters earlier this year, resulting in Manila filing a diplomatic protest against Beijing.

“Ang ginawa nitong barko na ito ay — meron kasi tayong exercise na nangyayari with the US force, US navy — ay minamanmanan nya,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters in an interview on Tuesday.

Noting that the area is well within the country’s territory, Lorenzana said this prompted the Philippines to lodge a protest against China.

“So we protested, hindi pwede ‘yun na manmanan tayo diyan [they can’t observe us] within our territorial waters,” he said.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Chinese vessel entered Philippine waters “without permission” from January 29 to February 1, 2022, reaching the waters of Palawan’s Cuyo Group of Islands and Apo Island in Mindoro.

Philippine Navy vessel BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) challenged PLAN 792, which allegedly claimed that it was exercising innocent passage.

At the time on the passage, the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) and the United States Marine Corps (USMC) were conducting marine exercises in Palawan.

Lorenzana said only innocent passage is authorized in the area where foreign vessels can enter through the Balabac Strait and exit Palawan with stopping.

“Medyo sensitive ‘yan na area because itong dinaanan nung barko ng Tsina ay hindi na ito international waters,” he said. “It is an internal water, it is the water between Palawan at saka yung Mindanao.” (MNS)

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