A Chinese warship has run aground on a reef off Palawan while patrolling contested waters in the West Philippine Sea, an Australian newspaper reported on Friday.
The report titled "Embarrassment: frigate runs aground" came as the Philippine government started verifying reports that China had installed a powerful radar on Subi Reef, an islet 22 kilometers from the Philippine-occupied Kalayaan group of islands in the Spratly archipelago.
Reporter John Gaurnaut of The Sydney Morning Herald, citing unnamed Western diplomatic sources, said the People's Liberation Army's naval ship No. 560 became "thoroughly stuck" on a reef at Half Moon Shoal during the previous night.
The warship is a Jianghu-class frigate "that has in the past been involved in aggressively discouraging Filipino fishing boats from the area," the Morning Herald said.
"The accident could not have come at a more embarrassing moment for the Chinese leadership, who have been pressing territorial claims and flexing the country's muscle ahead of a leadership transition later this year," the article added.
The Philippines refers to Half Moon Shoal as Hasa-Hasa Shoal, which military sources said is only about 111 km (60 nautical miles) from the municipality of Rizal on the main island of Palawan province, well within the country's 370-km (200-nautical-mile) exclusive economic zone.
Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon of Kalayaan in Palawan confirmed the incident and said it has been 10 days since it happened according to field reports.
"We heard the news from the Western Command about 10 days already," he said in a text message to INQUIRER.net.