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Philippine, Chinese ships collide in South China Sea

June 17, 2024

China's coast guard has said the Philippine vessel ignored warnings and approached the Chinese ship in the disputed Spratly Islands. China claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea as its territorial waters.

Chinese coast guard ship blocks Philippine coast guard ship in the South China Sea on March 5, 2024.
A Chinese and a Philippine ship collided in the South China Sea, according to Beijing's coast guardImage: Adrian Portugal/REUTERS

A Philippine ship lightly collided with a Chinese vessel in the South China Sea on Monday, the Chinese coast guard said.

The incident occurred in waters adjacent to the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands.

Beijing claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea. Parts of the region are disputed by Taiwan, the Philippines and several other Southeast Asian countries.

Trillions of dollars in ship-borne trade pass through the South China Sea each year and oil and gas deposits are believed to lie under its seabed.

Beijing and Manila trade accusations

The Chinese coast guard accused the Philippine ship of having "illegally broken into the sea near Ren'ai Reef in China's Nansha Islands," using Beijing's official term for the Spratly Islands.

"The Philippine replenishment ship ignored many solemn warnings from the Chinese side," Beijing's coast guard said in a statement.

It "approached the... Chinese vessel in an unprofessional way, resulting in a collision", the statement read.

"The Chinese Coast Guard took control measures against the Philippine ship in accordance with the law," it said, without elaborating further.

China and the Philippines at odds over the South China Sea

The Philippine military accused China of exercising "dangerous maneuvers, including ramming and towing."

Referring to the reef by its Philippine name, Manila said it would "not discuss operational details on the legal humanitarian rotation and resupply mission at Ayungin Shoal, which is well within our exclusive economic zone."

"We will exert our utmost in order to fulfill our sworn mandate to protect our territorial integrity, sovereignty, and sovereign rights," added Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

"It should now be clear to the international community that China's actions are the true obstacles to peace and stability in the South China Sea."

China implements new coast guard rules

China had previously warned the Philippines about intruding into what it considered its territorial waters and issued new rules that went into effect on June 15.

Under the new rules, China's coast guard is authorized to use lethal force against foreign ships in waters claimed by Beijing and detain trespassers without trial for 60 days.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos called the measures a "very worrisome" escalation.

Manila has accused the Chinese coast guard of "barbaric and inhumane behavior" against Philippine vessels.

On Friday, the G7 bloc of countries criticized what it called "dangerous" Chinese incursions in the South China Sea.

zc, sdi/rmt (AFP, Reuters)