Army official reveals being 'challenged' by Chinese Coast Guard 9 times at Scarborough

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 9) — A senior officer of the Philippine Army revealed on Wednesday that the Chinese Coast Guard “challenged” his team nine times while they were conducting routine maritime patrol at the Scarborough Shoal west of Zambales.

Col. Nonilon Lawas said he was part of the Northern Luzon maritime group when the incidents happened, although he did not provide specific dates.

“We were challenged nine times by the Chinese Coast Guard. And we were forced to leave our territory at the Bajo de Masinloc,” Lawas told the hearing of the Commission on Appointments.

“The Philippine Air force pilot is replying (for us), our protocol reply is that we are having our routine patrol within our maritime domain specifically,” Lawas added.

The Philippines lost Scarborough, also known as Panatag Shoal, following a controversial standoff with China in 2012. An international tribunal in The Hague later ruled that it’s a traditional fishing ground and China violated the Philippines’ rights when it blocked Filipino fishermen there.

China, however, refused to honor the landmark ruling and continues to claim almost the entire South China Sea, including areas Manila considers part of the West Philippine Sea.

Senator Risa Hontiveros noted that the information gathered by Lawas’ team was used by the government as evidence in the filing of diplomatic protest against China’s poaching of giant claims in Panatag Shoal in 2019.