The crew of Chinese research ship Jia Geng that entered waters off Catanduanes province without clearance from the Philippine government refused access to Philippine Coast Guard supposedly because of COVID-19 protocols. PCG

MANILA, Philippines — A Chinese ship that was spotted in northern Philippine waters in 2020 was sighted again, this time on the country’s eastern side before it left that area on Monday morning.

But according to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the research vessel Jia Geng had secured diplomatic clearance to take shelter in Cabugao Bay, Catanduanes, where it dropped anchor on Jan. 29. The Coast Guard said it kept a close watch on the ship.

The reported presence of Chinese ships in Philippine waters has prompted lawmakers in the House of Representatives to call for an inquiry into the intrusions.

The Jia Geng entered the country’s exclusive economic zone on Jan. 25. Two days later, Ryan Martinson of the US Naval War College posted on Twitter that the ship was “back operating in the Philippines exclusive economic zone. Current location about [242 kilometers] east of Samar.”

While in Philippine waters, “Immediately, PCG Catanduanes deployed boats to board said vessel,” a report by the Coast Guard said. “But the captain [of Jia Geng] refused … due to health protocols. Thus, PCG asked for documents for verification.”

The documents showed that the Jia Geng was a “marine scientific research vessel of China,” the Coast Guard said.

“On Jan. 30, the Department of Foreign Affairs informed the PCG that the Chinese Embassy [was] requesting … diplomatic clearance for said vessel to take shelter in Catanduanes due to bad weather and sea condition,” the report said.

When the ship left on Monday, 6 a.m., a “PCG Islander plane was … dispatched to overfly while said vessel [was] exiting our waters,” the Coast Guard said in its report. (Click here to read more)