China's escort mission in Gulf of Aden visits Manila next week

April 10, 2010 10:31 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, April 10 —The Army and Navy Task Force 525 of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) escort mission in the Gulf of Aden is to make a five-day port of call in Manila next week, it was announced by the Chinese embassy here.

The Task Force has just completed a 128-day escorting commission in the high-risk Gulf of Aden which began on Nov. 12, 2009, according to embassy spokesperson Sun Yi.

The Philippine Navy invited the Task Force, which is under the command of Sr. Capt. Qiu Yanpeng, the Deputy Chief of the East Sea Fleet of the Chinese Navy, Sun said.

Capt. Qiu’s command consists of two missile frigates, the flagship “Ma’anshan” and “Wenzhou” and the comprehensive supply ship “Qiandaohu.”

The Chinese guests, accompanied by Beijing's ambassador to Manila, Liu Jianchao, will be welcomed on April 13 at a ceremony headed by Capt. Allan F. Cusi, director of the Operation Center of the Philippine Navy.

A tour of the Ma'anshan, docking at Pier 13 of the Manila South Harbor, has been arranged. The command leaves port on April 17.

Task Force 525 is the fourth escort convoy dispatched by the Chinese Navy to the Gulf of Aden — long been the scene of hijackings of a number of vessels on which Filipinos serve as crew members and consequently held hostage against dollar ransoms by mainly Somali pirates.

Six Philippine vessels were among the non-Chinese vessels that the Task Force has escorted to safety in the 128 days of its mission in the Gulf of Aden, Sun noted.

Other foreign merchant vessels and those of international organizations, such as the World Food Program, transporting humanitarian materials, as well as at least 650 Chinese vessels have benefited from the escorting mission of the PLA's Task Force.

The embassy did not identify the Philippine vessels while the Philippine Navy could not be reached because of the holidays.

It will be recalled, however, that in April 2009, the Chinese frigate “FFG-570 Huangshan,” of an earlier escorting commission, came to the aid of the beleaguered Philippine-flagged chemical tanker “MT Stolt Strength” which had 23 Filipino sailors on board.

The merchant vessel had just been released by pirates off Somali waters after divesting it of all supplies such as food and medicine and was in danger of keeling over while on the high seas.

Following a request from the Philippine government, the “Huangshan” escorted food supplies and a medical checkup.

A December 2008 Resolution of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC Res1851) on anti-piracy in the Gulf of Aden justified the Philippine call for help and authorized China's assistance.

China has been saying that its navy fleet's escorting missions demonstrate “a responsible role of China in undertaking international obligations and the devotion of its People's Liberation Army to safeguard peace and security in the region and the world."

The fleet "has also played an active role in safeguarding security of Chinese and international vessels and crews through pirate infested waters."

China's naval vessels join Japan, the European Union, the United Kingdom and other major navies in an international flotilla that safeguards the Indian Ocean — whose sea extends its gateways to Europe and Asia via the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. (PNA)

scs/GJB

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