(1/3)A Chinese Coast Guard ship uses a water cannon against a Philippine supply ship heading towards the disputed Second Thomas Bank, in the South China Sea, December 10, 2023. Philippine Coast Guard/Handout via REUTERS acquire copyright Licence
Beijing, Dec 10 (Reuters) – The Philippines and China traded accusations on Sunday over a collision of their ships in disputed waters of the South China Sea, as tensions over claims to the vital waterway escalate .
The Philippine coast guard accused China of firing water cannons and ramming supply ships and a coast guard vessel, causing “serious engine damage” to one of them. them, while the Chinese coast guard said the Philippine vessel intentionally rammed its vessel.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a channel for more than $3 trillion in annual maritime trade, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration said China’s claims had no legal basis.
Beijing and Manila play cat and mouse over the uninhabited Second Thomas Shoal, in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, when the Philippines deploys resupply missions for Filipino soldiers living aboard an aging warship deliberately beached in 1999 to protect Manila’s maritime claims.
The shoal is part of what is known internationally as the Spratly Islands.
The Philippines on Saturday accused China of “illegal and aggressive actions” for firing water cannons at a government fishing boat operated by civilians, a move Beijing called legitimate “control measures” .
In Sunday’s incident, the Chinese Coast Guard said in a statement that two Philippine vessels, ignoring repeated warnings, had “illegally entered the waters adjacent to the Ren’ai Reef in the Nansha Islands without the approval of the Chinese government.
It said the Unaizah Mae 1 “made a sudden, unprofessional and dangerous turn, intentionally colliding with Chinese Coast Guard Vessel 21556.” He said the Philippine side bears full responsibility.
Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Jay Tarriela posted on social media platform X that the “M/L Kalayaan suffered severe engine damage. Contrary to Chinese Coast Guard misinformation, the UM1 was struck by a CCG vessel. »
A Philippine government task force condemned China’s “latest acts of unprovoked coercion and dangerous maneuvers against a legitimate and routine resupply mission.” China’s action “questions and seriously doubts the sincerity of its calls for peaceful dialogue,” it said in a statement.
The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said a coast guard vessel was towing the Kalayaan to Palawan province and that the coast guard vessel BRP Cabra “sustained damage to its mast after was directly targeted by the full power of the water cannon.
The US ambassador to Manila, MaryKay Carlson, said on X that “China’s aggression undermines regional stability in defiance of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
About 200 Filipino fishermen, youth leaders and civil society groups joined a Christmas mission to the region, organized by Atin Ito (“This Is Ours”), a civilian-led network demanding the country’s rights to the South China Sea.
Ten fishing boats decided to withdraw because they “exercised caution,” the group said on Sunday.
Reporting by Mikhail Flores, Colleen Howe and Eve Wu; Editing by William Mallard and Miral Fahmy
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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