June 12, 2023
MANILA — China’s largest naval training ship sailed for the Philippines on Friday, its last stop of a regional “friendly” tour, amid growing unease over Chinese maritime activities in the South China Sea.
The giant training vessel, Qi Jiguang, bigger than a typical destroyer, left Brunei on Thursday for the Philippines as part a of a 40-day trip, which included stops in Vietnam and Thailand before Brunei.
According to the Chinese Embassy in Manila, Qi Jiguang will arrive at Pier 15, South Harbor of the Port of Manila on June 14.
At the end of its trip, Qi Jiguang and its crew of 476 navy students and officers would have passed through the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, South China Sea, Gulf of Thailand, and West Pacific.
The training ship under the fleet of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, independently designed and built by China, measures 163 meters long and 22 meters wide.
It has a full load displacement of more than 9,000 tons and a maximum speed of 22 knots, which can meet the requirements for wind resistance of grade 12, the highest in the Beaufort wind scale, which is equivalent to the power of a hurricane.
The training conducted by the ship, named after a Ming dynasty general who fought against Japanese pirates, would focus on navigation, antipiracy and shooting exercises with lightweight weapons, according to Chinese state media, which had described its passage in the region as “friendly.”
Its impending arrival in the Philippines comes amid tensions with its neighbors over the South China Sea, which China mostly claims but parts of which are also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
In a statement, the Philippine Navy said the Chinese naval training ship will be in the country for a “goodwill visit” from June 14 to June 17.
“The Philippine Navy will host the visiting contingent with the customary and usual accommodation it renders to all visiting navies which fulfills its diplomatic role and promotes naval cooperation,” it said.
The visit marks the first time that a Chinese Navy vessel arrived in the country since 2019, when PLA Navy’s Escort Task Group 539 composed of three vessels conducted a five-day goodwill visit to the Philippines.
Asked for comment, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said in a message: “By nature, Filipinos are friendly and hospitable. Let this be known to all.”