Coast Guard: Chinese vessel spotted off Catanduanes 'sought shelter'

MANILA -- An official of the Philippine Coast Guard maintained that the Chinese vessel Jia Geng which was spotted in the waters off Bato, Catanduanes between Friday to Monday was there to seek shelter.

Spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo said the vessel left the country at 6 a.m. Monday and was escorted by the Coast Guard.

Based on its previous track, the Jia Geng did not come from the Philippine Rise, Balilo noted.

The vessel, he added, sought for help because there was a gale warning and the weather was inclement.

The PCG continuously monitors incursions on domestic waters and also takes humanitarian considerations such as seeking temporary shelter, he said.

He also maintained that the PCG vessel and crew sent to inspect Jia Geng were not allowed by the Chinese crew to board the ship to avoid transmission of Covid-19.

Meantime, reports by the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea earlier indicated that Jia Geng was spotted operating in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea in April and May 2020, according to a report by the Philippine News Agency.

Jia Geng was first detected entering the Philippines' exclusive economic zone on April 20, conducting several activities within the exclusive economic zone and the Kalayaan Island Group in various periods until May 18.

The task force added that Jia Geng conducted an illegal research expedition in Philippine waters after it was found to be performing survey patterns such as “stop-and-go” and “lawnmower” maneuvers and returned repeatedly to Bajo de Masinloc and the Kalayaan Group of Islands.