Monday, January 28, 2013

USS Guardian grounded at Tubbataha Reef


The agrounding of USS Guardian (MCM 5) a US Navy Avenger-class  mine countermeasures ship.



USS Guardian Grounding Investigation To Include Faulty Chart Data

A U.S. Navy investigation to assess the circumstances surrounding the USS Guardian (MCM 5) grounding that occurred in Philippine waters will include information on faulty digital navigation chart data that misplaced the location of Tubbataha Reef.
On Friday, the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) provided the Navy preliminary findings of a review on Digital Nautical Charts (DNC) that contain inaccurate navigation data and may have been a factor in the Guardian grounding that occurred in the Sulu Sea on Jan. 17 Philippine time. 

My own personal opinion regarding the agrounding of USS Guardian
Last January 17th a US Navy minesweeper vessel named "USS Guardian" was agrounded in Tubbataha Reef Marine Park a UNESCO-protected Marine sanctuary.
The ship had arrived at the former US naval base in Subic Bay in Olongapo City on Jan. 13 for a routine resupply, refueling and rest and recreation stop and a quick visit to Puerto Princesa before sailing off to its next destination of Timor Leste near Indonesia. 

In my opinion the agrounding of USS Guardian was another incident of ECDIS-assisted agrounding. ECDIS means Electronic Chart Display Information System now used and compulsary in some type of  Commercial ships plying the international voyage.
There were many instances of commercial ships agrounded because of the malfunctioning of ECDIS.
Below were the web links regarding the ECDIS-assisted agrounding of vessels.

In the commercial vessels we use the term ECDIS and in the US Navy, I presume they used the word
DNC or Digital Navigational Chart where paper Charts/Maps were replaced by Digital Charts.


An Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) is a computer-based navigation information system that complies with International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations and can be used as an alternative to paper nautical charts. IMO refers to similar systems not meeting the regulations as Electronic Chart Systems (ECS).

An ECDIS system displays the information from electronic navigational charts (ENC) or Digital Nautical Charts (DNC) and integrates position information from position, heading and speed through water reference systems and optionally other navigational sensors. Other sensors which could interface with an ECDIS are radar, Navtex, automatic identification systems (AIS), Sailing Directions and fathometer.
Since the USS Guardian was enroute to Indonesia after making port calls in Subic Bay and Puerto Princesa in Palawan, most probably they will pass through Basilan Strait. From Puerto Primcesa to Basilan strait is nearly straight course passing on the edge of Tubbataha Reef.

USS Guardian , ilang beses daw sinabihan ng Phl Coast Guard na
huwag pumasok sa Tubbataha Reef
USS Guardian pinasok ng tubig matapos sumadsad sa Tubbataha Reef
Militants Storms US Embassy
I am just wondering why the leftist movement of BAYAN did not protest when the Chinese annexed our Panganiban Reef in 1994, did not protest when the PRC Chinese Navy agrounded their Naval ship in Half Moon shoal - Hasa Hasa Shoal last July 2012 and when the PRC Chinese neo-colonialist occupied our Bajo de Masinloc / Scarborough Shoal.
USS Guardian tinatanggalan na ng Krudo

UNTV News: Salvage operation sa USS Guardian, natapos na (APR012013

Related Story :

Photos of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park - Cagayancillo, Palawan

Related news on the agrounding of USS Guardian.
Philippine govt urges US to save reef, not ship

The United States Navy has sent 10 American divers to assess the situation and brought in two private salvor ships to try to extricate its minesweeper that got stuck on Tubbataha Reef, a world-renowned marine sanctuary in the Sulu Sea, the Philippine Navy said yesterday.

Environmentalists have expressed worry the extraction may damage the reef more. Palawan Governor Abraham Mitra called on Philippine authorities to take charge of the operation so that priority could be given to saving the coral reef rather than the US ship.

“The reef (a heritage site) should be the priority not the ship. They can always build a new boat but it takes a lifetime for the reef to recover. As a responsible country, the US should exert all efforts in reef rehab and conservation efforts as millions of fishermen rely on it to feed their fishing grounds in the surrounding areas. We should take the lead and not allow the US to call the shots,” said Mitra.

Stranded US Navy ship ignored warnings: Philippines

US Navy minesweeper that has been stuck on a World Heritage-listed coral reef in the Philippines since last week ignored warnings to avoid the area, a government official said on Monday.
The comments from the superintendent of Tubbataha marine park, Angelique Songco, added to growing anger in the Philippines over the incident, for which the US Navy has apologised but may still face fines.

Park rangers radioed the USS Guardian to advise it was nearing the Tubbataha Reef on Thursday, but the ship captain insisted they raise their complaint with the US embassy, Songco told reporters.
She said shortly after the warning, the 68-metre (224-foot) vessel became stuck on part of Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Sulu Sea about 130 kilometres (80 miles) southeast of the western island of Palawan.

US Navy to be charged with unauthorized entry, damage to Tubbataha Reef

The Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) on Tuesday disclosed that it will charge the United States Navy with unauthorized entry and damage to Tubbataha Reef after its warship, the USS Guardian, ran aground on the UNESCO-declared world heritage site's pristine coral atoll.
“Under Republic Act 10067, it is the TPAMB is mandate to protect, preserve and promote the resources of Tubbataha Reef… It is the TPAMB’s intention to serve the US Navy with a formal notice listing violations of the above law in the grounding incident of January 17 involving the USS Guardian,” the park management said in a statement.

US ship to be lifted by crane from Tubbataha reef
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines -A week after the USS Guardian minesweeper ran aground on Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, authorities have finally decided to extricate the ship from the coral by lifting it with a crane and then transferring the vessel to a barge.

‘USS Guardian’ Navigator Misplaced Tubbataha by 8 Nautical Miles – US

Navy removes harmful material from Gounded USS Guardian
Posted on by

From U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

SULU SEA – A team of U.S. Navy salvage experts have been meticulously scouring the damaged USS Guardian (MCM 5), safely transferring anything deemed potentially harmful to prepare the grounded ship to be removed from Tubbataha Reef.


The Navy has safely transferred approximately 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel; 671 gallons of lubricating oil; dry food stores; paints and solvents contained in storage lockers; and the personal effects left behind by the crew from the ship.

“We continue to place extra scrutiny on removing everything we can to mitigate possible damage to the marine environment,” said Rear Adm. Tom Carney, the on-scene commander of the salvage operation.
USS Guardian to be dismantled, but may further damage Tubbataha
After wrestling with various other options, the US Navy has announced that it has no other choice but to dismantle the minesweeping vessel that has been stranded on Tubbataha Reef since January 17, according Defense News, a news site about the US military.

The US Navy had been preparing to lift the entire ship with giant floating cranes to deeper water or onto another ship. But the close proximity of salvage ships to the reef for the lifting operation would pose a greater risk to the reef, the US Navy has determined.

“Our only supportable option is to dismantle the damaged ship and remove it in sections,” Capt. Darryn James, spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told Defense News on Tuesday.

Lessons from the USS Guardian grounding... Don't trust Charts

With a US Navy investigation underway to assess the circumstances surrounding the USS Guardian grounding that occurred in Philippine waters at 02.25 on 17 January local time there are lessons already to be learned: Charts are not infallible even if they are on screen and it is not wise to navigate to fine tolerances with the aid of GPS when the underlying data is less accurate than the GPS.

An inaccurate chart is not a defence – not bumping into bits of ground remains the master’s responsibility.

Much of the Philippine waters have not be surveyed for 50 years or more, an issue highlighted when the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior also grounded on Tubbataha Reef in 2005. The chart in use showed the reef 1.5 miles from where it actually was.
The digital chart aboard USS Guardian, an Avenger-class mine countermeasures vessel, showed a position about eight nautical miles in error. At the time of the grounding the vessel was attempting passage through a channel just half that width.

NAMRIA tells Maritime Accident Casebook that the last hydrographic and topographic survey covering Tubbataha Reef was conducted in 2006 using single beam echosounder for the hydrographic data, 2008 is the latest hydrographic survey using multibeam echosounders. The chart was first published last May 2009 and the reef is marked as a restricted area on current charts.
On Friday, 18 January, the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, NGA provided the US Navy with preliminary findings of a review on Digital Nautical Charts (DNC) that contain inaccurate navigation data and may have been a factor in the Guardian grounding.

This followed the realisation by NGA that there might be a potential inaccuracy regarding the Tubbataha Reef digital chart. NGA has reviewed data from more than 150,000 square nautical miles in the surrounding area and found no additional errors.


Tubbataha caretaker reveals 'major progress' in USS Guardian salvage ops

March 2, 2013 5:24am

Thanks to good weather, there was "major progress" in the salvaging of the grounded minesweeper USS Guardian this week, caretakers of Tubbataha Reef said over the weekend.

In a blog post, the Tubbataha Management Office noted the Philippine Coast Guard still plans to finish the salvage operations by March 23.

"Good weather this week has allowed significant progress to be made in salvaging the USS Guardian, which has been grounded on Tubbataha Reefs since January 17, 2013," it said.

Inclement weather conditions last week had endangered the safety of the salvage crews and forced a delay in the salvage operations.
USS Guardian ran aground at Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17, and TMO officials estimate it may have damaged 4,000 square meters of the reef.
The TMO said the USS Guardian's weather deck was completely cleared last Feb. 27.
  Also, the funnel and mast had been dismantled while navigational equipment and controls were removed.
"The salvage team is now working on the second level of the US minesweeper and will then conduct diving operations to inspect the submerged section of its hull," the TMO said
Photos on the dismantling USS Guardian at Tubbataha Reef
US Navy ship removed from Philippine reef
Salvage teams on Saturday removed the last piece of a US Navy ship that was stuck on a UNESCO World Heritage-listed coral reef in the Philippines for more than 10 weeks, the coast guard said.
The stern of the USS Guardian was lifted off the Tubbataha Reef after the 68-metre (223-foot) vessel was sliced into portions for easier removal, Philippine coast guard spokeswoman Lieutenant Greanata Jude said.
Bad weather had earlier delayed the recovery operations but once the skies cleared, a salvage ship used a huge crane to lift the bow, the deck, the funnel and other pieces of the ship off the reef.
"The salvage ship will still remain in the area. After the lifting, they will clear the area of debris. It will take three days maximum," Jude told AFP.

The minesweeper ran aground on Tubbataha in a remote part of the Sulu Sea on January 17, damaging a section of the reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its rich marine life.
The incident sparked widespread condemnation across the Philippines, a former US colony.
The US government has apologised for the accident, which it initially blamed on faulty maps. The Philippines said it would impose fines.

Due to fears that towing it to deeper waters would inflict more damage on the reef, the US government agreed to scrap and dismantle the Guardian, which was worth about $277 million.
A team from the Philippine government and major universities has already been assembled to assess the damage caused when the ship ran aground, said Tubbataha Reef marine park superintendent Angelique Songco.

Under Philippine law, ships that run aground on Tubbataha are fined 24,000 pesos ($585) for every square metre of damaged reef, she said.

She said the area of the reef damaged by the USS Guardian has been initially estimated at 4,000 square metres (43,055 square feet) but the assessment team will still check this.
"We will inspect the total damage to establish exactly what they have to pay," Songco said.


US Navy replaces four over Philippines reef grounding
The commanding officer and three crew of a US minesweeper which ran aground on a protected coral reef in the Philippines have been relieved of their duties, the US Navy said Thursday.

A statement from the US Pacific Fleet in Hawaii said an initial investigation had found that the commander of the USS Guardian and three others had failed to "adhere to standard US Navy navigation procedures."

"The US Navy has the highest accountability standards and all four sailors were relieved by Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harley due to their role in the grounding and a loss of confidence," a statement said.

The minesweeper ran aground on Tubbataha in a remote part of the Sulu Sea on January 17, damaging a section of the reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its rich marine life.
The incident sparked widespread condemnation across the Philippines, a former US colony.
The US government has apologized for the accident, which it initially blamed on faulty maps. The Philippines has said it would impose fines.


US vows full payment for Philippine reef damage
Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN)
US Secretary of State John Kerry has restated his government's regrets over the grounding of a US Navy warship on the protected Tubbataha Reefs and assured the Philippines of full cooperation in the investigation of the incident.
Kerry has also assured the Philippines of full compensation for the damage caused by the grounding of the USS Guardian on the marine sanctuary in a remote corner of the Sulu Sea.
The new US secretary of state gave the assurances to the Philippines during his meeting with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario in Washington on Tuesday.

Del Rosario also assured the Filipino public that "every effort will be made to obtain proper compensation" for the damage to Tubbataha, initially estimated to be at around 4,000 square metres.

The two countries are conducting separate investigations of the incident. A team of investigators from the Philippine Coast Guard is flying to Japan "to examine documentary and physical evidence as well as meet with the US investigating team," Del Rosario said.

Tubbataha was off by 8 miles on USS Guardian's digital charts, says US mapping agency

By: Priam Nepomuceno, Philippine News Agency
August 15, 2013 7:06 AM
Manila, Philippines -

Now it can be told.
Crewmen of the USS Guardian relied on inaccurate digital maps that misplaced the protected reef by as much as 8 miles, a letter by the US Geospatial Intelligence Agency to the US Navy says.

US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) director Letitia Long admitted this in a letter to US Navy Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert.
She added that the DNC display of the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea was wrong due to erroneous commercial satellite imagery. Long, in her letter to Greenert, said NGA discovered that the charts related to the Tubbataha Reef prior to 2008 included a number of “phantom islands.”

To correct this problem, she said the NGA used commercial satellite imagery to update the charts.

“One of these images included incorrect information about the location of the section of ocean that includes the Tubbataha Reef. As a result, the reef was incorrectly placed in the [digital nautical chart],” Long said.

In 2011, NGA obtained survey data that corrected this positioning, but due to a failure to follow established procedure, this correction was made in one portion of the DNC, but not in another, Long said, a mistake she attributed to human error.

Long stressed that the error was compounded by “exclusive reliance” of the USS Guardian crew on GPS as a “single source of navigation.”

The crew did not pay heed to lighthouses on the reef, according to a 160-page post-wreck investigation report by Admiral Cecil D. Haney, commander of US Pacific Fleet.

The US Navy report said the grounding and destruction of the minesweeper also highlighted “potential systemic issues” on ships that use the Navy’s computer-based vessel management system and its electronic chart and display system.

The vessel management system is supposed to issue audible alerts of potential dangers, but as the USS Guardian neared the Tubbataha Reef before grounding, the Navy report said watchstanders on the bridge and in the combat information center did not report any alarms.
As the ship neared the reef, personnel on the bridge reported flashes from a lighthouse, but those were ignored as the crew continued to rely on the electronic charts and GPS.

Investigators blamed the grounding primarily on the crew’s failure to reconcile the differences between digital nautical charts of the area and more refined coastal charts.

The crew also failed to verify the position of the reef using a list of lighthouses.
The grounding broke the ship’s keel when rocks on the reef punched holes in its hull. The crew abandoned ship, with no loss of life.

“USS Guardian leadership and watch teams failed to adhere to prudent, safe, and sound navigation principles, which would have alerted them to approaching dangers with sufficient time to take mitigating action,” Haney said.
Related postings about other foreign incursion in Tubbataha Reef :
Chinese embassy protests arrest of poachers in Tubbataha

Chinese poachers using Hasahasa Shoal as transit point for PH sea turtles?
Chinese poachers illegally enter Philippine waters and engaged in poaching marine species in the UNESCO-protected Tubbataha Reef Marine Park a sanctuary for marine species.

The life that thrives within and around Tubbataha Reef is so precious to the Philippines and to the entire world, that its conservation is no longer a choice but an imperative".
 * * * * * *
PH receives P87M payment from US for Tubbataha Reef damage
February 18, 2015 (updated)
For  the damage caused to Tubbataha Reef by the grounding of a United States Navy ship two years ago, the Philippines received  P87,033,570.71 from the US government as compensation.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported that the Philippine government received the full requested amount on January 30.

According to the DFA, the compensation will be utilized for the protection and rehabilitation of Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site.

“Portions of the fund will also be used to further enhance capability to monitor the area and prevent similar incidents in the future,” it said.

In addition to the compensation received, the DFA said the US government is also providing additional assistance to the Philippine Coast Guard to upgrade the PCG Substation in Tubbataha.



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chinese ‘occupation’ of Bajo de Masinloc could reduce PH territorial waters by 38 percent

(First of two parts)

THE Philippines is at a loss over China’s declaration its ships will stay permanently in Bajo de Masinloc, a declaration some experts say could lead to the Philippines losing 38 percent of its territorial waters.

Bajo de Masinloc, a triangular-shaped coral reef formation that has several rocks encircling a lagoon, is located 124 nautical miles west of Masinloc town in Zambales in the northwestern part of the Philippines.

“The shoal is under virtual occupation by China,” said former foreign undersecretary and former Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Lauro Baja.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario confirmed this, saying, “In a subministerial consultation, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying had said to our people that China’s presence was permanent and they had no intention of withdrawing their ships from the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc.”
The National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) says Bajo de Masinloc has an area of about 120 square kilometers. It is also referred to as Panatag (calm in Pilipino) by fishermen who seek refuge in the area during stormy weather.

Its international name is Scarborough shoal after the tea-carrying British boat Scarborough which sank in the vicinity in 1784. China also claims ownership of the shoal which is 467 nautical miles away from its mainland, and refers to it as Huangyan Island.

Republic Act 9522, which defines the country’s archipelagic baseline, includes Bajo de Masinloc as part of Philippine territory. The law classifies it as a regime of islands under Art. 121 of the Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC), which means it generates its own territorial sea, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.

Under UNCLOS, “an island is a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide.”

An island generates its own maritime regimes, which are 12 nautical miles (nm) for territorial sea, 24 nm for contiguous zone, 200 nm for EEZ and 200 nm continental shelf.

Under this definition, the Chinese claim over Baja de Masinloc means the Philippines risks losing not only the 120-square-kilometer strategically vital reef formation but also some 494,000 square kilometers EEZ, representing 38 per cent of the country’s EEZ.

One of the Philippines’ options to protest the Chinese encroachment is going to the United Nations International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), the arbitration arm of UNCLOS, of which the Philippines and China are signatories.

Legal experts say the Philippines can ask the ITLOS, which does not deal with territorial disputes, to declare Bajo de Masinloc as a rock rather than an island.

UNCLOS said, “Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.”

Retired Philippine Navy Commodore Rex Robles, who has been to the area a few times for gunnery practice, declares that “Panatag shoal is a rock.”

“It cannot support human life. It is not an island,” he concludes.

Lawyer Romel Bagares, executive director of Center for International Law (Philippines), said RA 9522 “does not actually specify whether Bajo de Masinloc consists just of uninhabitable rocks or is capable of economic life pursuant to Art 121 of the UNCLOS. This could be one way of arguing ITLOS has jurisdiction, especially as to the interpretation of provisions. It’s a pragmatic approach, no doubt.”

What is obvious, Bagares said, is that RA 9522 assumes that the shoal is part of Philippine territory in the fullest sense of the term.

Del Rosario said, “To the extent that their three ships are within our exclusive economic zone, this is in gross violation of the DOC and UNCLOS.”

DOC is the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed in 2002 by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, four of them part claimants to islands in the South China Sea, and China. UNCLOS is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Baja said, “When our ships withdrew from Bajo de Masinloc in June and now (we) could not access the area, the shoal became under virtual occupation by China. “

Baja, who drafted the DOC with Malaysia’s Abdul Kadir, also said Chinese occupation of the disputed shoal has changed the status quo, contrary to the DOC.

The DOC states: “The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.”

Baja said China is exercising what the International Court of Justice (ICJ) calls “effectivités.” “This is the basis of the Court’s decision on the Ligatan Sipadan case where the court awarded the area to Malaysia over Indonesia. Also the same principle in the case between Chile and Peru and between Nicaragua and Guatemala,” he said.

In 2002, the ICJ awarded sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan, two very small islands located in the Celebes Sea, off the northeast coast of the island of Borneo, to Malaysia against Indonesia giving weight to the former’s actual and continued exercise of authority over the islands.
Baja said, “We must act and interact before we lose the territory by default and/or estoppel.”
Seven months after China’s occupation of Bajo de Masinloc, the Philippines is still “reviewing” its options.

Asked about the Philippines’ response to China’s declaration it has no intentions of pulling out their ships from Panatag shoal, Del Rosario said, “We are reviewing all our options in accordance with our three track approach encompassing the political, legal and diplomatic means.”

President Benigno Aquino III has refused to discuss publicly the Philippine efforts on Bajo de Masinloc because he said doing so would be “giving the other side a preview of everything that we will do.”

He said, though, in October at a forum by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines that the matter “is still being studied by our consultants.”

Aquino added, “There are several law firms that we are consulting, conversant and very well thought of and experts in international law, to precisely chart the course of how we will utilize the legal procedures in international law to advance our claims.”

Experts point to two options available to the Philippines: the military option—which is not really an option considering the inferior state of the Philippine Navy compared with China’s naval might—and the legal option.



Bajo de Masinloc crucial to China’s claim of whole South China Sea

January 21, 2013

The permanent stationing of three of its ships in Bajo de Masinloc is part of China’s “creeping invasion” of disputed territories in the South China Sea, a high-ranking Philippine government official said.

Bajo de Masinloc is Huangyan island to China, which has time and again reiterated “that Huangyan Island and Nansha Islands have always been parts of Chinese territory and that the People’s Republic of China has indisputable sovereignty over these islands and their adjacent waters.”
“The claim to territory sovereignty over Huangyan Island and Nansha Islands by the Philippines is illegal and invalid,” China says.

Nansha is what the Chinese call the Spratly Islands, a group of islands on the South China Sea, parts of which are being claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

China’s presence on Bajo de Masinloc is also an alarming reminder to the Philippines of how Mischief Reef came under Chinese control 18 years ago.

In the early 1990s, China had built structures it said were just fishermen’s shelters on Mischief Reef. Through the years, China added installations on the island, including a radar system.

Philippine and U.S Air Force reconnaissance revealed military structures on Mischief Reef belying Chinese claims. In January 1995, the captain of a Philippine fishing boat reported that he was arrested and detained for a week by the Chinese when he ventured into Mischief Reef.

Since then Mischief Reef has been under the control of China and inaccessible to Filipinos.
A paper titled “Geopolitics of Scarborough Shoal” written by Francois-Xavier Bonnet of the Bangkok-based Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia (IRASEC) explains the importance of Huangyan Island to the bigger and long-term objective of China.

Bonnet said Huangyan Island/Bajo de Masinloc is crucial to China’s claim over the Zhongsha Qundao islands which is vital in its controversial “nine-dash line map.”

The map is called “nine-dash line” or “nine-dotted line” because it shows a series of nine dashes or dotted lines forming a ring around the South China Sea area, which China claims is part of its territory. The area includes the Spratlys group and Bajo de Masinloc.

The “nine-dash line map” puts 90 percent of the whole South China Sea under Chinese jurisdiction.
The map does not have coordinates, but was submitted by China to the United Nations on May 7, 2009.

Bonnet explained, “The Zhongsha Qundao is composed of Macclesfield Bank, Truro Shoal, Saint Esprit Shoal, Dreyer Shoal and Scarborough Shoal. All these banks and shoals, except for Scarborough Shoal, are under several meters of water even during low tide. Chinese policymakers know too well that without Huangyan island, the chance of their ownership over Zhongsha Qundao recognized is nil.”

Bonnet said, “The stakes are high. If China loses Huangyan/Scarborough, it will lose Zhongsha Qundao, which could be divided by the EEZs of the neighboring countries or placed under the regime of the high seas. By consequence, China’s entire claim to the South China Sea supported by the U-shape line would be moot and academic.”

Last June, China elicited international concern when it established Sansha City on Yongxing Island in the southernmost province of Hainan. Sansha City’s territory includes the Spratlys, the Paracels and Macclesfield Bank.

Immediately after establishing Sansha City, China’s Central Military Commission, its most powerful military body, approved the deployment of a garrison of soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army to guard disputed islands.

China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs said in June that putting Macclesfield Bank, the Paracels and the Spratlys under Sansha would “further strengthen China’s administration and development” of the three island groups.

The Philippines protested the establishment of Sansha City, specifically the inclusion of a part of its territory, Macclesfield Bank, one of the largest underwater atolls in the world, covering an area of 6,500 square kilometers.

Former foreign undersecretary and Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Lauro Baja said there is no doubt that China has Bajo de Masinloc in its long-term territorial design.
Incidents of Philippine Navy ships apprehending Chinese fishermen in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc is common. In 1999, the Philippine Navy even “accidentally” sank a Chinese fishing boat. But the conflict never went beyond the standard diplomatic protests.

Former Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon recalled one apprehension in 1998 that was a subject of a diplomatic protest by China involving a young navy officer named Antonio Trillanes IV, who would would later on become a senator and play a controversial role in the tension between the Philippines and China over the disputed shoal.

But Philippine encounters with the Chinese in Baja de Masinloc took a different turn on April 8, 2012, when the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, the Philippines lone modern warship acquired from the United States, arrested Chinese fishing vessels in the area.

Philippine military officials said BRP Gregorio del Pilar was due for preventive maintenance servicing in Subic at that time but was redirected to Northern Luzon as contingency undertaking for an impending North Korea rocket launch.

The combat ship was also ordered to verify reports about the presence of the Chinese fishing vessels in Bajo de Masinloc. They arrested Chinese fishermen in eight fishing boats caught with sizable quantities of endangered marine species, corals, live sharks and giant clams.

Looking back, officials say the April 8, 2012 incident gave China an excuse to occupy the area.
China immediately deployed three Chinese Marine Surveillance (CMS) ships to Bajo de Masinloc to rescue their fishermen and added more than 80 vessels as the standoff dragged on.

The Philippines later withdrew BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which was replaced by a Philippine Coast Guard ship and a research vessel by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in observance of “white to white,” referring to civilian ships, and “gray to gray,” meaning navy-to-navy rules of engagement.

The standoff that lasted 57 days spilled over to the economic front with China rejecting inferior quality bananas from the Philippines and cancellation of Philippine-bound Chinese tour groups.
It was only broken upon the insistence of the United States State Department that the issue be resolved because President Barack Obama did not want it included in the agenda of his June 8, 2012 meeting with President Benigno Aquino III at the White House.

                         Chinese vessel with giant clams taken from Bajo de Masinloc waters

With the breakdown of communication between the straight-talking Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing in Manila, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell proposed to Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying in Washington D.C. that Chinese and Philippine vessels withdraw simultaneously from the disputed shoal.

By that time, Trillanes had entered the picture and was directly negotiating between Beijing and Malacañang to help de-escalate the tension.

Hours before Aquino left for London and Washington D.C. on June 4, 2012, Malacañang announced the pullout of Philippine ships from Bajo de Masinloc “consistent with our agreement with the Chinese government on withdrawal of all vessels from the shoal’s lagoon to defuse the tensions in the area.”

Diplomatic sources said Fu Ying never committed complete withdrawal of their ships from Bajo de Masinloc as there was resistance from the People’s Liberation Army, an important sector in China’s power structure.

Del Rosario said when he met with Fu Ying during her Manila visit last Oct. 19, “I was very direct in saying that the presence of their ships is in clear violation of our sovereign rights, and they must withdraw their ships at the earliest possible time.”

Fu Ying did not respond, he said.

Related web link :

Philippines takes China to UN over sea row

The Spratlys are worth dying for

Scarborough shoal again

Exclusion of Spratly and Scarborough from Baseline "unconstitutional"

 Trillanes’ statement on baseline bills

 Arroyo’s New Baseline is a Sellout to China — CPP

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