A ship, mistaken for a Chinese vessel that docked off Subic Bay last week, turned out to be a private yacht owned by a businessman based there, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday.
After verification by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the maritime unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Subic-registered yacht Balena II was described as a former Japanese research and survey vessel called Tankai Maru.
“It was found out that the vessel is actually a yacht owned by a businessman in Subic,” Lorenzana said in a statement but he did not say who.
“It has been bought and converted into a motor yacht. It caters to tourists that are already in Subic,” he said.
Lorenzana’s clarification came after local publication Subic Bay News reported that Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Wilma Eisma had alerted the defense secretary and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. about the suspected Chinese ship anchored off the waters.
Eisma was also quoted as saying that the PCG took the lead to verify the ship’s presence and purpose. The ship also docked early Wednesday, according to reports.
Lorenzana said that it was Eisma herself who confirmed that the private yacht was registered in Subic.
“She also said that she and the PCG and PNP maritime units will coordinate for better monitoring of these cruise ships/recreational marine vessels,” he said.
The mistaken identity came in wake of reports that Chinese survey ships have been spotted operating within Philippine waters.
The Philippines, through Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., has since filed a diplomatic protest. DEMPSEY REYES