Philippines extricates warship from South China Sea shoal
MANILA, Philippines, September 4, 2018 (AP) — The Philippine navy extricated one of its largest warships from the shoal where it ran aground last week near a hotly disputed region in the South China Sea.
Two Philippine security officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday that tugboats were used to pull the BRP Gregorio del Pilar from the shallow fringes of Half Moon Shoal, which the Philippines calls Hasa Hasa, before midnight. The military later confirmed the successful extrication.
The frigate, which was being towed back to a Philippine port, ran aground during a routine patrol Wednesday night, damaging some of its propellers. Its more than 100 crewmen were unhurt.
The barren shoal is on the eastern edge of the disputed Spratly archipelago, where tensions have run high in recent years after China built seven disputed reefs into man-made islands and reportedly installed missile defence systems.
Philippine defence officials notified their Chinese counterparts after the accidental grounding of the Philippine Navy frigate at the shoal, which Beijing claims, to avoid any misunderstanding, said the two Philippine officials, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the issue publicly.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said last week that China offered to help but that the Philippines would handle it.
A Chinese frigate ran aground on the shoal in 2012 and was pulled away by Chinese military ships.