Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

The Philippines has disclosed that China Coast Guard vessels were involved in two collisions with Philippine vessels and deployed water cannons against a boat, resulting in injuries to four crew members during a resupply mission in the South China Sea.

These incidents occurred in the vicinity of Second Thomas Shoal within the Spratly Islands, an area where both nations have conflicting maritime claims.

According to a statement released by a Philippine government task force, China Coast Guard and Chinese Maritime Militia vessels engaged in disruptive actions, including harassment, obstruction, and the use of water cannons, aimed at impeding a routine resupply and rotation mission.

The China Coast Guard responded, stating it took control measures against what it deemed as “illegal intrusion” by Philippine ships in waters surrounding Ren’ai Reef in China’s Nansha Islands, using the Chinese names for the contested locations.

The vessels involved in the incident, including the BRP Sindangan and its sister ship, were deployed to support military-chartered boats carrying replacement soldiers and supplies to Second Thomas Shoal, where Filipino troops are stationed aboard the grounded Philippine navy vessel, the BRP Sierra Madre.

During the encounter, four crew members aboard the Unaizah May 4 sustained injuries when two China Coast Guard ships simultaneously fired water cannons, causing damage to the vessel’s windshield. Additionally, a minor collision occurred between one of the China Coast Guard vessels and the Unaizah May 4, prompting the vessel to return to shore without completing its cargo delivery.

Earlier that day, another minor collision occurred between a China Coast Guard vessel and one of the Philippine Coast Guard ships escorting the supply boats. China Coast Guard spokesperson Gan Yu accused the Philippine Coast Guard ship of deliberately ramming the Chinese vessel, resulting in a minor scrape.

These incidents follow a pattern of similar confrontations, including those in December, marking some of the most intense encounters between Philippine and Chinese vessels in recent years. Analysts suggest Beijing’s actions may be aimed at testing Manila’s resolve and potentially escalating tensions in the region.

Under President Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippines has adopted a firm stance against encroachments in its maritime territory, contrasting with the approach of former President Rodrigo Duterte, who prioritized cooperation with Beijing. Analysts believe these incidents could lead to increased anti-China sentiment in the Philippines and reinforce the administration’s alliance with Western partners. However, there are concerns that such confrontations could escalate into violent incidents detrimental to both parties involved.

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