A marine scientist from the University of the Philippines (UP) said China has also harassed Filipino scientists researching in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
China also established three research stations in the disputed area, according to marine scientist Deo Florence Onda.
“It institutionalizes their claim, it really strengthens their claim of the area,” Onda said who is also an associate professor and vice president of the UP Marine Science Institute.
“They don’t directly run over us or directly hit us but we know that they follow us every day. What we do is we just keep our distance from them,” said Onda.
The UP scientist said the Chinese Coast Guard harassed them during their several research voyages in WPS.
Onda recalls Chinese Coast Guard would warn them that “you are entering Chinese territory, please leave now.” They would also follow the Philippines’ Research Vessel “Panata” until the vessel teachers shallow waters where Chinese ships could not follow them.
The Panata, a leisure yacht also renamed RV Kasarinlan, has been researching WPS since 2019.
However, Onda, who was the first Filipinos to go to Emden Deep in the Philippine Trench, said their research monitoring is being delayed by the interference of Chinese vessels.
China harasses Filipino scientists researching in West Philippine Sea
“During our Pag-asa expedition, there were areas that we could not reach because the Chinese Coast Guard kept following us,” he said. He added there is an instance that Chinese ship is only 150 meters away from them.
Onda said Filipino researchers had been “working well with the national government” on their activities in the West Philippine Sea.
Meanwhile, tensions between China and the Philippines over the Ayungin shoal issue in the West Philippine Sea remain unresolved.
After delivering food and supplies to Philippine troops guarding the Ayungin shoal, China called on the military to fulfill its alleged promise to remove the BRP Sierra Madre.
The Philippine Navy left the ship there in the 1990s to reinforce the Philippines’ position as part of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).