Stand-off in Philippine sovereign seas
China: From January to March, 275 Chineses fishing vessels suspected as Chinese Coast guard surveillance ships were spotted near Pag-asa Island (international name: Thitu Island). Some reports sad that these ships carried Chinese paramilitaries named “Little Blue Men.”
Pag-asa Island is the biggest island in the Spratly Group of Islands which is located 285 nautical miles from Palawan.
US: US war vessels were spotted near Panatag Shoal (Scarborough) three times during the same period. In January, USS Hopper launched so-called freedom of navigation operations near the island. In April, US Airforce A-10 Warthog patrolled the area. The USS Wasp had the biggest presence, with its 10 F-35Bs, believed to be the most advanced US fighter planes, four Ospreys and two attack helicopters. It has a 1,000 crew and carries 1,600 Marines for its amphibious vehicles. Before Filipino fishermen divulged its presence in the area on April 9, it secretly carried out plane and helicopter flights and landings near the shoal. The USS Wasp is part of the 35th Balikatan exercises which was launched last April 1-12. (For additional details, read related article in Ang Bayan, April 7, 2019.)
Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc is 35-40 nautical miles from Masinloc, Zambales.