18 Chinese boats seek refuge in Basilan to escape ‘Ruby’s wrath PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 12:01

Philippine Navy boats on Tuesday escorted and secured 18 Chinese fishing boats that sought refuge off Langil and Sibago islands, Basilan due to rough seas brought about by tropical storm Hagupit) Monday.

The two islands are part of Muhammad Ajul town, said Naval Task Group 61 commander Capt. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo.

The 18 Chinese fishing boats were carrying an estimated 250 crew members.

The BRP Subanon (AT-291), a landing craft utility, members of Naval Special Operations Unit 6 and BA-487, one of the newly-acquired multi-purpose assault craft of the Navy, were immediately deployed to the area after receiving information from the military’s Joint Task Group Basilan about the Chinese boats.

An inter-agency team from the Bureau of Immigrations, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Bureau of Quarantine and Bureau of Customs from Zamboanga City inspected the Chinese fishing vessels and the documents of the crews Monday afternoon.

No illegal cargo was found in the holds of the ships and all the papers of the 250 crewmembers were found to be in order.

The inter-agency team had to go back to Zamboanga City late Monday afternoon with the Navy securing the fishing boats.

“We know that’s not a very friendly area,” Bacordo said of Basilan, a known bailiwick of the militant Abu Sayyaf group.

He said the team returned to Langil Island and completed their investigation around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“They (Chinese fishermen) have a note verbale from the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs). They have an authorized passage here though their departure (from Indonesia) came early,” Bacordo said.

Force majeure was invoked by the Chinese because of inclement weather caused by “Ruby” (Hagupit).

“Their pre-plotted course wasfrom Indonesia, they  entered our waters, passing through Basilan Strait, then Sulu Sea, then Balabac Straits, then they are to exit West Philippine Sea, then South China Sea on their way to China,” he said.

Bacordo said the International Convention on the Law of the Sea actually allows vessels an innocent passage.— With report from Richard Falcatan