A Chinese coast guard vessel sails near the Spratly islands in April 2021


  • The PCG spotted at least 20 Chinese and Vietnamese vessels around Sabina Shoal
  • The PCG also encountered a PLN Navy Corvette off Pag-asa Island
  • One Chinese vessel issued a radio challenge against the Philippine Coast Guard

Ships belonging to China's Coast Guard and the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) are continuously patrolling and operating around the Philippine Island Group, according to a report.

In a Facebook post published Thursday, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said it spotted several PLAN corvette vessels patrolling the Kalayaan Island Group from March 16 to 21. The Kalayaan Island Group is where the Spratly Islands are located. The nine islands are owned by the Philippines. However, the ownership is disputed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The PCG also said it spotted at least 20 Chinese and Vietnamese vessels and two China Coast Guard Vessels in the area surrounding the Sabina Shoal. According to the PCG, it issued multiple radio challenges to the vessels, none of which received any response.

Off Thitu Island, locally known as Pag-Asa Island, the PCG encountered a PLAN corvette identified as CNS Guangyuan with hull number 649. The vessel is believed to be the same ship that was seen in the area on March 4 and 9. The PCG said the vessel released its own radio challenge.

The Pag-Asa Island was originally held by Taiwan but was abandoned in 1971 due to a typhoon. The island was then taken over by the Philippine military in 1974 and it built an airstrip two years later, per USNI News.

The Kalayaan Island Group remains one of the world's most contested archipelagos, with at least five countries claiming some of the islands as their own. For years, China has been claiming sovereignty over the entire South China Sea. It has also deployed coast guards and fishing vessels to the Spratlys where it has dredged sand to build anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment and runways for fighter jets.

Other countries claiming some of the islands as their own include Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.

The Philippines has recently stepped up in its efforts to challenge China's claim to the islands under the Marcos administration. It is also seeking to develop closer ties with the United States, which "committed" to conduct joint maritime patrols with the Philippines in February.

A Philippine flag flutters from BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship that has been aground since 1999 and became a Philippine military detachment on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea, March 29, 2014. Reuters/Erik De Castro