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Grounded Philippine Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre

Philippines accuses China of ‘dangerous’ actions in South China Sea

by Agence France Presse

MANILA – The Philippines accused the Chinese coast guard Friday of “dangerous harassment” of Filipino boats in the disputed South China Sea, including firing a water cannon.

The latest incident near the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the Spratly Islands comes nearly three weeks after two collisions between Chinese and Philippine vessels during a resupply mission to the same tiny garrison.

The countries, which have a long history of maritime disputes in the hotly contested waters, traded blame for those incidents.

On Friday, Manila said the Chinese coast guard and other vessels “recklessly harassed, blocked, and executed dangerous maneuvers” as they tried to “illegally impede or obstruct a routine resupply” of Filipino troops at the outpost.

The Philippines’ National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said in a statement that a Chinese coast guard vessel had also fired a water cannon against a Philippine boat.

The task force said the Philippine embassy in Beijing lodged a protest with the Chinese foreign ministry over the incident.

”We firmly insist that Chinese vessels responsible for these illegal activities leave the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal immediately,” the task force said.

”We condemn, once again, China’s latest unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous maneuvers against a legitimate and routine Philippine rotation and resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal that have put the lives of our people at risk. The systematic and consistent manner in which the People’s Republic of China carries out these illegal and irresponsible actions puts into question and significant doubt the sincerity of its calls for peaceful dialogue,” it added.

But China said it “took control measures” against two Philippine transport ships and three coast guard vessels it insisted were in Chinese waters.

“The Philippines’ actions infringe on China’s territorial sovereignty,” China Coast Guard spokesperson Gan Yu said.

“We urge the Philippines to immediately stop its infringing actions.”

A handful of Filipino troops are stationed on the crumbling BRP Sierra Madre, which the Philippine Navy grounded on the reef in 1999 to check China’s advance in the waters.

The troops depend on the resupply missions for their survival.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually, and has ignored a 2016 international ruling that its assertion has no legal basis.

Over the past decade or so, Beijing has deployed vessels to patrol the waters, swarm reefs, and build artificial islands that it has militarized to reinforce its stance.

Ayungin Shoal is about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the western Philippine island of Palawan and more than 1,000 kilometers from China’s nearest major landmass, Hainan island.

The Marcos administration has publicly criticized Chinese actions in the South China Sea, publishing photos and videos to support its claims of Chinese harassment and the blocking of its vessels.

Beijing has released its own images of the incidents.

”The Philippines will not be deterred from exercising our legal rights over our maritime zones, including Ayungin Shoal, which forms part of our Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf. We demand that China demonstrate that it is a responsible and trustworthy member of the international community,” the task force said.

with a report from Carl Santos



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