MANILA/BEIJING (Reuters) -The Philippines on Friday condemned China’s coast guard for “unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous manoeuvres,” including its use of a water cannon against one of its boats, in an attempt to disrupt a resupply mission in the South China Sea.
China’s actions, the Philippines said, has not only “put the lives of our people at risk,” but have “put into question and significant doubt the sincerity of its calls for peaceful dialogue”.
The regular resupply missions support the Philippines’ troops stationed in an intentionally grounded dilapidated warship on Second Thomas Shoal, a hotly disputed atoll in the South China Sea that Manila calls Ayungin and is known as Renai Reef in China.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, which includes the Second Thomas Shoal, and has deployed hundreds of vessels to patrol there, including what Manila refers to as “Chinese maritime militia”, which it said were involved in the latest attempt to obstruct the resupply mission.
China’s coast guard on Friday said two small Philippine transport ships and three coast guard ships entered the waters without the permission of the Chinese government and urged the Philippines to stop infringing on Beijing’s sovereignty.
“The China coast guard has followed Philippine vessels in accordance with the law, taken control measures, and made temporary special arrangements for the Philippine side to transport food and other necessary daily necessities,” Beijing’s coast guard said in a statement.
The Philippines’ government said the resupply mission was completed, even as its boats were “subjected to extremely reckless and dangerous harassment at close proximity” by the Chinese coast guard’s inflatable boats inside the shoal.
For years, Manila and Beijing have been embroiled in on-off confrontations at the Second Thomas Shoal as China has become more assertive in pressing its maritime claims, alarming rival claimants and other states operating in the South China Sea, including the United States.
Washington has thrown its support behind a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, that said Beijing’s expansive claims had no legal basis, delivering a historic legal victory for the Philippines. Under the ruling, the shoal is inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
“The Philippines has acted responsibly, consistent with a rules-based international law, on the basis of UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award,” the task force said. “Peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regard for the legitimate, well-established, and legally settled rights of others.”
China’s use of water cannons followed a series of incidents in the South China Sea, including the collisions between China’s vessels and two Manila ships on Oct. 22. The Philippines accused China coastguard of “intentionally” colliding with its vessels.
(Reporting by Beijing newsroom, and Neil Jerome Morales in Manila; Writing by Bernard Orr; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Gerry Doyle)
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