Probe of US ship, Chinese submarine collision in RP waters sought

Probe of US ship, Chinese submarine collision in RP waters sought

Asserting that the country’s national sovereignty was gravely violated, the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Monday urged the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives to conduct a separate investigation on the alleged incident involving a US war ship and a Chinese submarine off Subic waters in Zambales province recently.

“The Philippine waters are reserved for the exclusive use of Filipinos. But why is it an American war ship and a Chinese submarine were allowed to explore our seas and perform whatever security agenda these countries have in mind inside the country’s territorial waters?,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

“A full-blown probe is necessary to determine the serious implications of this military entangle between the US and China to the country’s sovereignty and security of 90 million Filipinos,” Hicap added.

The Pamalakaya leader put to task Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles to lead the investigation, stressing that the incident is no simple accident of sea-based mishaps involving regular Filipino vessels.

“The Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives are duty bound to unearth the real score behind the US war ship and Chinese submarine collision happening inside the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). They are constitutionally and legally obliged to undertake a high level panel probe,” said Hicap.

The US embassy in Manila said the incident did not take place inside the Philippine waters. Embassy spokesperson Rebecca Thompson said the American warship USS John S. McCain has not been operating recently inside the Philippine territory.

The Philippine Navy also echoed the statement of US Embassy in Manila, adding that the US military authorities had not made any request to allow the entry of its warship in Philippine waters. Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo said there is no military exercise that would justify the presence of USS John S. McCain war ship in the country.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington said the US destroyer is operating in international waters and conducting routing operations when it experienced damage to its Multi-Function Towed Array (MFTA) sonar.

The Pentagon spokesperson declined to elaborate on the incident, saying the US military does not discuss detailed, operational capabilities or locations of its ships. Meanwhile, top defense officials in Manila said there is no cause for concern as the US and Chinese vessels were 125 nautical miles outside Philippine territorial waters. They confirmed that the US ship was part of a recently concluded joint military exercise in the country and that it passed through Subic to refuel before exiting the country.

But Pamalakaya said the collision highlights the national security hazard and extreme danger posed by the new Baselines Law submitted by the Philippines to the United Nations to demarcate the country’s territory.

“Under the baselines law, all submarines and military ships can now sail inside the Philippine territorial waters. It is also questionable why the Chinese submarine has to hide when it passed the country’s territorial waters. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), submarines must surface when in the exercise of innocent passage. Something fishy is really going on here,” the group said.

“The US and Chinese military authorities are engaged in military psy war and they are using the Philippines territorial waters as their battleground. This is really ridiculous and mind-boggling. Yet President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her defense and foreign affairs officials are not doing any responsive action to stop this issue for fear of catching the ire of two military world powers,” said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya recalled that last March, two tense standoffs between US and Chinese vessels in the South China Sea triggered accusations by the United States that China was behaving in an aggressive manner. The Chinese military authorities said a US naval vessel involved in the incident with Chinese fishing boats in the Yellow Sea had violated maritime law, and urged the United States to take steps to avoid a repetition. #

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