By Priam Nepomuceno

PN spokesperson for WPS Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad (PNA file photo by Priam F. Nepomuceno)

MANILA – Three Chinese research vessels were detected within the vicinity of the Ayungin Shoal, a ranking Philippine Navy (PN) official said Tuesday.

In a press briefing, PN spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said these vessels were detected on Monday, adding this is the first time such vessels were monitored in the area.

“I could remember we have not recorded or reported any research vessel so far from China in Ayungin Shoal,” Trinidad said.

Asked on the Chinese research vessels’ possible purpose, the PN official said it is likely China’s way of showing that it is not bothered by the ongoing “Balikatan” exercise between the Philippines and the United States.

“It coincided with ‘Balikatan’, it is their way of showing that they are not deterred, they are not scared by what’s happening in the WPS, sinabay nila sa pagawa natin ng ‘Balikatan’ (they timed it with our conduct of ‘Balikatan’),” Trinidad said.

He added these Chinese research vessels “were not doing anything” at the time they were monitored.

No more live-fire for air missile exercise

As this developed, “Balikatan” executive agent Col. Michael Logico said the supposed live-fire event for the integrated air missile defense drill was scrapped.

“Instead of doing the live-fire, we will shifting to live-virtual constructed activity,” he said.

Logico attributed the change of plans to an “unforeseen logistical problem” that made the “live-fire a little problematic without going to specific details.”

The exercise was supposed to feature the Philippines’ SPYDER air defense missiles and its American equivalent, which would be one of the highlights of three-week “Balikatan” exercises set from April 22 to May 10.

Amphibious landing drill

Meanwhile, the PN’s landing dock BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602) on Tuesday demonstrated its capabilities through the successful well-deck operations and amphibious landing exercises held in the vicinity of Campong Ulay Point, Rizal, Palawan.

These activities are part of the ongoing “Balikatan” exercise.

“Following a successful launch, LCU (landing craft unit) 1 and LCU 2 reached the designated beach landing site on 30 April 2024 around 0843H. Participating as the landing force and command group were the 9th Marine Battalion, the 3rd Naval Construction Battalion, and Marine Reservists assigned to Naval Reserve Center-West,” “Balikatan” Combined Information Bureau chief Lt. Col. John Paul Salgado said.

He added that this exercise showcased the Navy’s ability to effectively deploy troops and equipment from ship to shore, a critical skill for various maritime operations. (PNA)