China warns Philippine military planes in South China Sea

by Frances Mangosing

PAG-ASA ISLAND, South China Sea (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - China warned transport plane boarded by the Philippines’ defence chief and other officials on their way to a disputed territory in South China Sea. 

China challenged two Philippine military planes on its way to the Philippine-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 onboard the plane with AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año.

The plane, during such incidents, was told it was entering Chinese territory and should stay away to avoid miscalculation.

Lorenzana, who was onboard the C-130, downplayed the incident, and said it is just protocol.

“That is automatic. That is protocol. We also replied that we are flying over Philippine territory. They challenged us. There are a series of replies but no untoward incident happened,” he said.

“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.