Urgent!! China’s escort mission to waters off Somalia drops anchor in Manila

April 13, 2010 10:05 pm 

MANILA, April 13 — China’s 4th escort mission of two missile frigates and a supply ship to the Gulf of Aden — on its way back to home base — dropped anchor at Pier 13 of the Manila South Harbor mid-morning Tuesday as the much-awaited April showers pelted some 300 mostly Chinese residents of Manila who waved Philippine-Chinese flags and Filipino students shouted out “welcome” in Mandarin language.

A Filipino-Chinese guest, who declined to give her name, said the rain "bodes well for Philippine-China's friendship, a good feng shui."

Before the rare showers, with Manila sizzling under the El Nino summer heat, the well wishers, led by Beijing’s ambassador to China Liu Jianchao and the Philippine Navy’s Felicisiono Luzuriaga, were waiting with businessmen and Chinese community leaders who were later given a quick tour of the Task Force 525 flagship, the “Ma’anshan.”

Sr. Capt. Qiu Yanpeng, commander of “Task Force 525” that consisted of the “Ma’anshan,” the “Wenzhou” and the general supply ship “Qiandaohu” was greeted down the ramp by Liu and Luzuriaga, who stood in for the Philippine Navy’s director of operations, Capt Allan Cusi.

The 4th escort commission has escorted a total 661 Chinese and other international vessels, including six from the Philippines, that passed through the high-risk Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia, according to Capt. Qiu.

For his part, Liu said in his welcome speech that “today is not just another summer day in Manila. Today shall become testimony to the flourishing relationship between our two countries,” referring to the suddenly-arranged visit at the invitation of the Philippine navy.

The envoy also said the visit shares “the friendship and sincerity from the Chinese people to the Philippine people.”

Capt. Qiu’s command is the first escort mission to visit the Philippines though general naval visits of China’s People’s Liberation Army have occurred before. Luzuriaga said the goodwill mission is a show of cooperation between the two navies, particularly since the PLA missile frigate, the “Huangshan” of an earlier escort mission, had aided the Philippine chemical tanker, the “M/V Stolt Strength," in April last year.

The Philippine tanker was pirated of food, medical supplies and other paraphernalia by Somali pirates near Oman and abandoned in high waters, but the Chinese frigate came to the rescue with needed supplies and medical aid.

Among the activities scheduled during the week-long visit are basketball and football matches between the two navies on April 15, said Luzuriaga.

Liu said that as he spoke, China’s 5th escort mission is on its way to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia, expected to replicate Task Force 525’s 128-day mission that began in November 2009.

According to Liu, the naval visit is one of the commemorative expressions of the “deepening and enduring friendship between our two navies, two countries and two peoples,” particularly as the 35th anniversary of China-Philippines diplomatic relations draws near in June. (PNA).

DCT/GJB

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