Philippines accuses China of damaging vessel in South China Sea

Manila says Chinese ships fired water cannons at two of its vessels near disputed Scarborough Shoal

Namita Singh
Tuesday 30 April 2024 11:43 BST
Chinese coast guard ship collides with and fires water cannon on Philippine vessels

Tensions flared in the South China Sea on Monday after the Philippines accused China’s coast guard ships of firing water cannons at two of its vessels, disrupting Manila’s aid distribution to fishermen.

Accusing Beijing of harassment and damaging one of its boats in a disputed area, the Philippine Coast Guard claimed that its vessels stood their ground at the Scarborough Shoal, but one sustained damage from water cannons fired by two Chinese coast guard ships.

The incident occurred at around 10am on Monday, when the Philippine vessels encountered “obstruction” by Chinese vessels, Philippine coast guard spokesperson Jay Tarriela said.

The vessels were “assigned to carry out a legitimate maritime patrol in the waters near Bajo De Masinloc”, he said, adding that the “primary objective of this mission was to distribute fuel and food supplies” to support the fishermen.

"This damage serves as evidence of the forceful water pressure used by the China coast guard in their harassment of the Philippine vessels," the spokesperson added. "They were not deterred and will persist in carrying out their legitimate operations to support Filipino fishermen and ensure their safety."

China issued a statement urging the Philippines to stop provocations in the South China Sea and not challenge Beijing’s determination to safeguard its sovereignty.

“Philippine ships intruded without China’s permission and the Chinese coast guard took necessary measures to drive them away,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jin, who was addressing a query on the issue.

No country has sovereignty over the strategically located Scarborough Shoal, a prime fishing patch used by several nations that is close to major shipping lanes. The shoal falls inside the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

China has occupied the atoll for more than a decade and waters around its lagoon, which has long been a sanctuary for vessels during storms, have been the site of confrontations in recent years.

Mr Tarriela said the Philippine vessel BRP Bagacay suffered damage to its railing and canopy and claimed that China has installed a floating barrier at the shoal’s entrance, "effectively restricting access to the area".

The two countries have traded accusations of illegal conduct at the shoal and the Philippines recently summoned a Chinese diplomat to explain what it calls aggressive manoeuvres. China has accused the Philippines of encroaching on its territory.

China and the Philippines previously said they would seek better communications and management around skirmishes in the vast South China Sea, but tensions have increased of late as the Philippines forges stronger diplomatic and military ties with the United States.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3tn of annual commerce, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 said China’s expansive claim had no legal basis, a decision Beijing has rejected.

Additional reporting by agencies

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