How the Philippine Coast Guard challenged Chinese vessels in Sabina Shoal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 6) — On April 27, the Philippine Coast Guard challenged at least seven Chinese maritime militia vessels anchored at the Sabina (Escoda) Shoal within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

On Wednesday, the PCG issued a video featuring a female crew member of BRP Cabra sending a radio communication to the Chinese vessels at the shoal located 130 nautical miles west of Puerto Princesa, Palawan and east of Ayungin Shoal.

"To [the] unidentified foreign vessel at Sabina Shoal, this is Philippine Coast Guard BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409). You are within Philippine exclusive economic zone. You are requested to provide the following: name of vessel, intention, last and next port of call on Channel 1 and 6," the crew member can be heard saying in the video.

RELATED: Chinese militia vessels leave PH-claimed Sabina Shoal 

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday, PCG spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo said the challenge lasted for about 20 minutes before his crew approached the vessels. He recalled how the encounter took place while they were conducting maritime exercises under Task Force Pagsasanay, along with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in the area.

"On April 27, nagkataong nandiyan ang ating personnel malapit sa Sabina Shoal and we got information from the Western Command na meron ding mga foreign fishing vessels sa area," he said.

[Translation: On April 27, it so happened that our personnel were near Sabina Shoal and we got information from the Western Command that there were also other foreign fishing vessels in the area.]

Balilo said after his team approached the Chinese militia, the vessels just "turned on their engines, retrieved their anchor, and started to go away." The PCG even escorted them as they left the area until no other vessels were in sight.

"Siyempre meron ding pangamba ang mga tao natin. Lagi namang kasama 'yan everytime na magpa-patrol, lalo na 'pag nagkakasalubungan ang Philippines at China Coast Guard dito sa West Philippine Sea," he added.

[Translation: Of course, it always comes with anxiety on the part of our crew. It's always there especially when conducting patrols, and when the Philippines and China Coast Guard would chance upon each other in the West Philippine Sea.]

In 2016, the Arbitral Tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague unanimously ruled in favor of the Philippines in the case against China’s claims in the South China Sea, which the latter has consistently refused to recognize.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has always been soft on China's incursions, said in his recent public address that the arbitral ruling affirming the Philippines' sovereign rights in its EEZ is simply "a piece of paper" which he could simply "throw in the waste basket."

But Balilo said the PCG will continue its monitoring activities to establish their presence in the West Philippine Sea and raise the country's flag. There will also be a second leg of maritime exercises where they will deploy their 84-meter offshore patrol vessel, BRP Gabriela Silang.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea also repeatedly said the country will continue law enforcement activities in Philippine waters to assert our sovereign rights.