Philippine warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar is on its way to South China Sea to interfere in the ongoing tension between China and Vietnam. The Philippines is calling for both parties to exercise restraint.
Chinese and Vietnamese coastguard vessels have been involved in a week-long confrontation over a reef in the South China Sea, risking the biggest clash between the two nations in five years.
The stand-off may trigger a wave of anti-China sentiment in Vietnam not seen since 2014, when a Chinese oil rig arrived off the disputed Paracel Islands.
Six heavily armed coastguards vessels – two Chinese and four Vietnamese – have been eyeing each other in patrols around Vanguard Bank in the Spratly group of islands since last week. About a dozen vessels were reported in the vicinity by marine tracking websites on Thursday.
The stand-off emerged despite a pledge in May by Chinese and Vietnamese defence ministers to settle maritime disputes by negotiation.
On Wednesday last week, Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 (Marine Geology 8) entered waters near the Vietnamese-controlled reef to conduct a seismic survey, Ryan Martinson, an assistant professor at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, said in a tweet on Friday, citing ship tracking data.
Its escorts included the 12,000-tonne armed coastguard vessel 3901, complete with helicopter, and the 2,200-tonne coastguard ship 37111.