The Philippine Coast Guard yesterday accused Chinese vessels of “dangerous” maneuvers during a nine-day patrol near a reef off the coast of the Southeast Asian country.
The Philippine vessel BRP Teresa Magbanua was deployed early this month to patrol the waters around Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground in the South China Sea, and deliver provisions to Filipino fishers and ensure their safety.
The reef has been a flashpoint between the countries since China seized it from the Philippines in 2012. It is known as Huangyan Island (黃岩島) in China and Taiwan, which also lays claim to it.
Photo: AFP / Philippine Coast Guard
Since 2012, Beijing has deployed patrol boats that Manila says harass Philippine vessels and prevent Filipino fishers from reaching the lagoon where fish are more plentiful.
During the patrol, China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels “performed dangerous and blocking maneuvers at sea against BRP Teresa Magbanua four times, with the CCG vessels crossing the bow of the PCG vessel twice,” the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said in a statement.
The Philippine Coast Guard said that its ship was also “shadowed” by four China Coast Guard vessels “on more than 40 occasions.”
The coast guard also observed what it described as “four Chinese Maritime Militia [CMM] vessels.”
Videos released by the Philippine Coast Guard show a China Coast Guard vessel meters from the port beam of the BRP Teresa Magbanua, before it crosses the path of the Filipino boat.
“Nevertheless, the PCG vessel professionally engaged both the CCG and CMM vessels through radio reiterating the clear and principled position of the Philippines in accordance with international law,” the statement said.
The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Scarborough Shoal is 240km west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and nearly 900km from the nearest major Chinese land mass of Hainan.
The Philippine Coast Guard handed out food and groceries to 100 Filipino fishers in 14 boats, the statement said.
The incidents came two months after tense standoffs between China and the Philippines around disputed reefs in the South China Sea that saw a collision between vessels from the two countries and Chinese ships blasting water cannon at Philippine boats.
China claims almost the entire sea and has ignored an international tribunal ruling that its assertions have no legal basis.
It deploys boats to patrol the busy waterway and has built artificial islands that it has militarized to reinforce its claims.
Chinese and Philippine officials last month agreed on the need for closer dialogue to deal with “maritime emergencies” in the waterway as tensions escalated.
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