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Grounded Philippine Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre

Philippines: China vessel hit resupply boat near Ayungin Shoal

by Agence France Presse

MANILA – The Philippines accused a Chinese coastguard vessel of colliding on Sunday with a Philippine resupply boat as it traveled to a tiny garrison in the disputed South China Sea.

The incident occurred at 6:04 a.m. near Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the Spratly Islands, a hotly contested region where Beijing deploys hundreds of vessels to assert its claims over almost the entire sea.

A Philippine government task force said the “dangerous blocking maneuvers of China Coast Guard vessel 5203 caused it to collide with the Armed Forces of the Philippines-contracted indigenous resupply boat” about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Ayungin Shoal.

In another incident, a Philippine coastguard vessel escorting the routine resupply mission was “bumped” by what the task force described as a “Chinese Maritime Militia vessel”.

“The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea condemns in the strongest degree the latest dangerous, irresponsible, and illegal actions of the CCG and the Chinese Maritime Militia done this morning,” the task force said in a statement.

It said the “provocative, irresponsible, and illegal action” of the Chinese coastguard boat had endangered the safety of the crew on board the supply boat.

A second resupply boat was able to reach the grounded BRP Sierra Madre and “successfully resupply our troops and personnel stationed there”, the statement said.

However, Beijing said it was a Philippine coastguard vessel that “deliberately stirred up trouble” ahead of a collision with a Chinese boat.

“The Philippine Coast Guard vessel 4409 deliberately stirred up trouble and reversed in a premeditated manner,” state broadcaster CCTV reported, citing the foreign ministry, adding that “the malicious collision heated up the situation”.

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

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 Philippine Navy deliberately grounded the World War II-era BRP Sierra Madre on the shoal in 1999 to check China’s advance in the waters.

The troops stationed on the crumbling ship depend on regular supply deliveries for their survival.

The Philippines, a longtime US ally, has outposts on nine reefs and islands in the Spratlys, including Ayungin Shoal.

Tensions between Manila and Beijing flared in August when China Coast Guard vessels used water cannon against a Philippine resupply mission to the reef, preventing one of the boats from delivering its cargo.

with a report from Carl Santos



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