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Philippines supply ships clash with Chinese coast guard

March 23, 2024

The Chinese Coast Guard used a water cannon against Philippines' ships attempting to deliver supplies to Filipino troops at an outpost in the South China Sea, according to Manila.

Philippine supply boats escorted by the Philippine coast guard during a previous clash with China
China and the Philippines have a history of naval incidentsImage: Aaron Favila/AP Photo/picture alliance

Philippine naval vessels were involved in a clash with the Chinese coast guard on Saturday while attempting to resupply troops at a contested outpost in the South China Sea.

A Philippine civilian boat, escorted by two navy ships and two coast guard vessels, was on a monthly supply run to a small number of Filipino marines stationed on the "Sierra Madre" – a warship intentionally run aground on the Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 in order to reinforce The Philippines' territorial claims in the area.

Manila says Chinese ships were 'irresponsible'

According to a statement from the Philippine coast guard, one of its ships was "impeded" and "encircled" by a Chinese coast guard vessel and two ships from the Chinese maritime militia.

Philippine authorities said one of its vessels had been damaged by a water canon during the "dangerous maneuvers" undertaken by the Chinese, who it said had showed a "disregard" for the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).

The statement accused he Chinese ships of "irresponsible and provocative behavior." 

China, which claims most of the South China Sea as its territorial waters, has regularly deployed vessels to monitor and disrupt efforts to resupply the "Sierra Madre" and described Saturday's operation as "control measures."

In a similar incident in March, Manila claimed that four Filipino sailors had been injured and two boats damaged.

No injuries have been reported this time.

US, Japan support Philippines

The United States and Japan immediately expressed support for the Philippines and alarm at the aggression of Chinese forces off Second Thomas Shoal.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement that Washington "stands with its ally the Philippines and condemns the dangerous actions by the People's Republic of China against lawful Philippine maritime operations in the South China Sea."

Japan's ambassador-designate to Manila, Endo Kazuya, reiterated his country's "grave concern on the repeated dangerous actions by the Chinese coast guard in the South China Sea, which resulted in Filipino injuries."

Meanwhile, Chinese coast guard spokesperson Gan Yu said the Philippine vessels intruded into what he said was China's territorial waters despite repeated warnings. 

China has constructed artificial islands in the region and fortified them to underline its claims.

A 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague determined that China's sweeping claims over waters also claimed by Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have no legal basis.

mf/dj (Reuters, AFP)