TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Philippines on Tuesday (May 31) announced that it had summoned a Chinese diplomat over the "harassment" by a China Coast Guard (CCG) ship of a Taiwanese vessel engaged in a joint Philippine-Taiwan research mission in Philippine waters in April.
On Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced that it had "summoned a senior official of the Chinese Embassy in Manila to protest the harassment by CCG on RV Legend, which had been conducting an authorized marine scientific research activity, with Philippine scientists on board." It also revealed that the Chinese official had been summoned on April 13.
The Washington-based think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) on May 26 released a report revealing that Chinese coast guard ships had "challenged marine research and hydrocarbon exploration activities within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea." According to the report, on March 23, the Chinese coast guard ship CCG 5203 left Mischief Reef and began to "shadow" Legend at a distance of two to three nautical miles as it conducted hydrographic surveys northwest of the Philippines' Babuyan Islands, prompting Taiwan to dispatch the Coast Guard Administration patrol vessel CG 5001 Chiayi.
On April 6, the Chinese coast guard vessel CCG 5203 again began tailing the Legend and an accompanying Philippine coast guard patrol vessel, the BRP Capones. When the Capones returned to port in San Fernando, Philippines, on April 7, the CCG 5203 continued to trail the Legend until it returned to Taiwan on April 9.
Personnel involved in the research project told the Associated Press that a Chinese coast guard ship had followed the Legend from March 25-30 while it had five Filipino scientists on board and an unknown number of Taiwanese scientists. Carla Dimalanta of the National Institute of Geological Sciences at the University of the Philippines told AP that the Chinese coast guard ship had come within two to three nautical miles from the Legend, causing concern among researchers as their ship was towing a long underwater survey cable.
The offshore study, which was slated to end on April 13, was a joint research project between the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences and Taiwan's National Central University to help map faults and other geological features that could trigger earthquakes, tsunamis, and other hazards. According to Dimalanta, the project was partly funded by the Philippine Department of Science and Technology.