Chinese Warship chases Philippine boat carrying mayor-elect Bito-onon

A Chinese warship provocatively chased and tailed the utility boat of Kalayaan island town with 147 civilian passengers, including the group of re-elected Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon, while sailing back to Palawan from Pag-Asa Island in the hotly-contested Spratly region.

Bito-onon said the Chinese warship coming from the east side area of Ayungin Reef, used its powerful floodlights while chasing and tailing M/T Queen Seagull early Thursday, May 16, 2013.

“For almost an hour, the Chinese warship tailed our boat,” Bito-onon said in a phone interview shortly after the docking of M/T Seagull at Buliluyan Port in Palawan’s southern town of Bataraza.

"The Chinese warship was only 50 meters away from our own boat," Bito-onon said, adding that the incident started when M/T Queen Seagull, that left Pag-Asa Island Wednesday morning, was passing by the Philippine-occupied Ayungin Reef at past midnight.

Bito-onon said the Chinese warship only stopped tailing them when their boat was already navigating around the Half Moon Shoal, an area where a Chinese gunboat ran aground last year.

Several Chinese warships and surveillance ships were monitored to have taken up position in the area for several days now as part of China’s aggressive move in laying its territorial claim to almost the entire South China Sea.

Meanwhile, a grounded Philippine Navy (PN) transport ship, BRP Sierra Madre, is now being used as a Naval detachment by the Western Command (Wescom) to house Filipino troops on forward deployment in Ayungin. - PhilStar

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