Five more Chinese warships entered Philippine waters near Tawi-Tawi in July and August, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Wednesday.
Lt. Gen Cirilito Sobejana, AFP Western Mindanao Command chief , said two warships were spotted in Sibutu Strait in July and another three in August. The warships were not hostile, he added.
The Sibutu Strait is an internationally-recognized sea lane where foreign ships enjoy the right of innocent passage. But Sobejana argued the recent Chinese incursions in Philippine waters is not innocent passage.
“Ang innocent passage straight line lang ‘yun, pagka medyo nagkurba ka [if it curved], that is no longer considered as innocent passage,” he said.
Philippine coastal patrol and aircraft spotted the Chinese vessels, and left Philippine waters immediately as they were monitored.
Sobejana said he has informed national authorities about the incident. Maritime law mandates these armed vessels to notify Philippine authorities should they enter the country’s territorial sea, he added.
“Since these are warships their entry to our territory should be coordinated so we informed the national leadership,” he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier called out Beijing’s failure to inform Manila about the passage of four Chinese warships in the same strait since February.
The military also monitored four more Chinese vessels, including ships from the Chinese Navy, transited Balabac Strait in Palawan in June.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it has lodged a diplomatic protest with Beijing over the passage of some of these warships in Philippine waters.