By Martin Sadongdong
The Department of National Defense (DND) clarified on Monday that it was a luxury yacht, not a Chinese vessel that docked off a resort in Subic, Zambales over the weekend, easing the fears of the public of another unwarranted entry of a foreign ship in the country’s territory.
On Sunday, a post circulated in social media about the presence of a boat with Chinese passengers near the Ocean Adventure Park in Subic Bay, which was immediately picked up and reported by an online news site.
According to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Amy Eisma, the post raised concerns among the “netizens” since it was falsely identified as having entered Subic “without informing the authorities.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that upon verification by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Maritime Group, the boat that was mistakenly identified as a Chinese vessel was actually a motor yacht called Balena II. It is owned by a Subic-based businessman.
“Further inquiry states that it used to be the Japanese research and survey vessel, the ‘Tankai Maru.’ It has been bought and converted into a motor yacht. It caters to tourists that are already in Subic,” Lorenzana explained.
The Defense Chief added that Eisma confirmed to him the Balena II was registered in Subic as a yacht.
“She also said that she, and the PCG and PNP maritime units, will coordinate for better monitoring of these cruise ships or recreational marine vessels,” Lorenzana stated.
In a statement, the SBMA management said Balena II was registered to one Didier Ladriere, a Belgian national who owns a restaurant in Subic Bay Freeport.
The 40-meter yacht was apparently on a bay cruise on Sunday morning with Ladriere piloting the vessel, and catering to eight Chinese nationals — all guests of the yacht owner — along with the boat crew of 12 people, said SBMA Deputy Administrator for Port Operation Rani Cruz.
With the clarification, the Defense Department reaffirmed its commitment to protecting the country’s territory amid possible foreign intrusions.
Just last week, two Chinese survey ships were found to be allegedly operating within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines sans coordination with local authorities.
A Chinese warship also allegedly passed through Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi last month without informing local authorities.
The recent supposed aggressive actions of China contributed to heightened tension between the Philippines and the Asian superpower in the disputed waters in the South China Sea.