PAGASA ISLAND, Philippines — China challenged two Philippine military planes on its way to the Philippines-claimed Pagasa Island (Thitu) on Friday here in the disputed South China Sea.
The two planes, a C-295 and a C-130 transport plane, that were warned by China to stay away were carrying Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and top military officials.
The pilots of the C-295 reported that they were challenged at the periphery of Chinese-controlled Subi Reef near landing, Armed Forces spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said. Padilla was on board the plane with AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año.
The plane, during such incidents, is told it is entering Chinese territory and should stay away to avoid miscalculation.
Lorenzana, who was onboard the C-130, downplayed the incident and
“Normal na yan tuwing punta (That is normal every time we visit). They always challenge and we always tell them we are flying in a Philippine territory,” he added.
Lorenzana is the first defense chief to visit the largest island claim of the Philippines in the Spratlys in the South China Sea in almost 20 years.
He toured the island to inspect the facilities that needed repair.
Meanwhile, a group of Filipino fishermen have accused China’s coast guard of shooting at their vessel in disputed South China Sea waters, authorities said Friday.
Officials said they were investigating the reported attack on the Princess Jo- hann boat, which the crew said occurred near a Chinese-occupied section of the Spratly archipelago on March 27.
There were no casualties during the incident, authorities added.
“(Princess Johann) was reportedly fired upon seven times by a Chinese speedboat with seven Chinese coast guards on board,” the Philippine Coast Guard statement said.
The armed speedboat approached the Filipino vessel after it dropped anchor about 3.7 kilometers off the Chinese side of the Union Banks atoll, it said.
“The crew hid and eventually cut their anchor line and fled the area,” the statement added./
The Pagasa Island.