The military has monitored the passage of five more Chinese vessels in southern Philippine waters without Manila’s permission.

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said two Chinese reconnaissance ships were seen in Sibutu Strait near Tawi-Tawi province in July, and three more this month.

The Chinese vessels were “not hostile but it was not innocent passage because innocent passage is straight line. They made turns, so that is no longer considered innocent passage,” Sobejana said in a phone interview.

The vessels, after seeing military patrol ships and aircraft, left Philippine waters, he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed Sobejana’s statements, and pointed out that the passage of the five ships was in violation of Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua’s promise to inform the Philippine government beforehand of any movement of Chinese vessels in Philippine territory.

“It’s like they own Sibutu and Balabac straits,” the Cabinet official said in Filipino.

“All other warships (of other countries), we are informed of their passing. Only the Chinese refuse to conform to internationally accepted norms by ignoring them,” he added.

Manila had formally protested with Beijing the passage of four ships in Philippine waters since February. Since then, four more ships have been monitored passing the waters off Balabac in Palawan without permission.

Lorenzana recalled that the Chinese envoy gave his word that he would ask the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) to notify the Chinese Embassy in Manila of the passage of its ships in Philippine waters.

The Chinese Embassy would then “inform us of any passing PLA-N warships passing through our territorial waters,” Lorenzana said.

“That was after the four instances of PLA-N warships transiting through Sibutu earlier…Hence, what Ambassador Zhao said that they would inform us in advance has no effect,” he added. (