A Philippine boat and a Chinese coast guard vessel collided in the waters of the Spratly Islands on Sunday. Both countries blame each other for this incident.
A Philippine boat and a Chinese coast guard vessel collided in the waters of the Spratly Islands on Sunday, with both countries blaming each other for the incident, a day after another confrontation in the disputed South China Sea .
The Philippines said on Sunday that “Chinese coast guard vessels and Chinese maritime militia harassed, blocked Philippine civilian supply ships and carried out dangerous maneuvers.”
One of the two boats carrying supplies was “rammed” by a Chinese coast guard vessel, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said in a statement. A Chinese ship also fired water cannons at two supply boats and a Philippine Coast Guard vessel that were escorting the mission, the Philippine statement added. This caused “severe damage” to the engine of one of the supply boats and damaged the mast of the coast guard vessel, he said.
China gives a different version
China, for its part, accused a Philippine ship of having “deliberately collided” with a Chinese coast guard vessel.
On Sunday morning, four Philippine vessels “illegally entered” the waters of the Spratly Islands claimed by China, the Chinese coast guard said in a statement, adding that a Philippine vessel “disregarded our multiple and severe warnings (…)”.
The Philippine vessel “suddenly changed direction in an unprofessional and dangerous manner, deliberately colliding with our Coast Guard vessel 21556 which was on a normal law enforcement route and causing a scrape,” they said. declared. the Chinese Coast Guard in the press release. “The responsibility lies squarely with the Philippine side,” they said.
An incident the day before
The incident near Second Thomas, an atoll in the Spratly Islands, came a day after another clash between Chinese coast guards who “impeded” three Philippine government boats resupplying with water cannons. Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Reef, a Beijing-controlled reef off the Philippine island of Luzon.
Hours before Sunday’s incident, a civilian convoy of 100 Filipino fishermen set out on a journey that would take them to Second Thomas with a mission to supply the remote outposts for Christmas.
Organizers said they were “continuing the agreed route” despite this latest confrontation. The second Thomas Atoll is about 200 km from the Philippine island of Palawan and more than 1,000 km from the nearest big island and Chinese province, Hainan.
Soldiers depend on these supplies
A handful of Filipino soldiers are stationed on a military boat, the BRP Sierra Madre, stranded in 1999 on the atoll, serving as an outpost and allowing the Philippines to assert its sovereignty claims against China. Troops depend on supply missions for their survival.
One of their supply boats was able to deliver its cargo on Sunday, but the one involved in the collision had to be towed by a Philippine Coast Guard vessel to Palawan, the National Task Force said.
Manila and Beijing have a long history of maritime disputes in the South China Sea through which billions of dollars of goods pass each year.
Relations between Manila and Beijing have deteriorated under President Ferdinand Marcos, who has sought to move even closer to his traditional American ally and push back against Chinese actions in the South China Sea. Marcos warned last month that the situation in the waters had become “more terrible.”
Last Sunday, the Philippines reported that more than 135 Chinese ships were invading the Pentecost Reef, which the Philippines calls Julian Felipe Reef, about 320 kilometers west of the island of Palawan, calling their growing presence “alarming “. .
Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, including waters and islands near its neighbors’ coasts, and has ignored an international tribunal’s 2016 ruling rejecting the claim without legal basis. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim several reefs and islets in this sea, some areas of which may contain rich oil reserves.