“An unidentified China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel was sighted in Panganiban Reef,” a government report seen Wednesday by GMA News Online said.
The ship, according to the report, possesses “advance communication systems and armaments such as twin automatic cannons mounted on the ships’ deck.”
“As such, it is deemed imperative for the Philippines to enhance its present intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities while seeking a minimum credible deterrent against potential external threats,” the report said.
Panganiban Reef is a rich fishing ground within Philippine territory but came under Chinese control in 1995.
Chinese media has reported in Beijing that China would now use armed Chinese coast guard vessels to complement its fleet of Chinese Maritime Surveillance (CMS) and Fisheries and Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) vessels that, for years, have been conducting sovereignty patrols in most of the Chinese-claimed areas in the South China Sea.
The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have competing claims over the resource-rich waters.
China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over the entire South China Sea, where undersea gas deposits have been discovered in several areas, even as it overlaps with the territories of its Asian neighbors.
Manila has sought international arbitration to try to declare as illegal China’s massive claim.
News reports say Chinese coast guard vessels have been seen first in waters being disputed by China and Japan off the Japanese territorial waters in the East China Sea islands called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.
China’s integrated Coast Guard Agency began its operation on Monday.
The unified China Coast Guard integrates the functions of marine surveillance, the existing coast guard that came under the police, fisheries law enforcement and Customs’ anti-smuggling maritime police, an Agence France Presse report said, adding divisions “that were not allowed to be equipped with weapons can be armed now.” — KBK, GMA News