Tuesday, April 23, 2024
HomeWorldAsiaPhilippines calls China 'aggressor' in South China Sea clash

Philippines calls China ‘aggressor’ in South China Sea clash

On Sunday, a Chinese Coast Guard ship collided with one of Manila’s small wooden cargo ships.

No one was injured in the incident, but the incident sparked international condemnation and expressions of concern from the United States. Philippine foreign ministry spokeswoman Teresita Daza told a joint news conference on Monday:

All incidents like this will bolster the case that it’s not the Philippines that’s the aggressor, but the other party, which is China.

The Chinese Coast Guard said on Sunday there was a “slight collision” between one of its ships and a Philippine vessel when the coast guard “lawfully” blocked a vessel carrying “illegal construction materials”.

Regular deliveries are made to Filipino military personnel aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, a former warship that Manila grounded at Second Thomas Bank in 1999 to assert its sovereignty. The shoal, known in Manila as Ayungin and Renai Reef in China, is within the Philippines’ 370-kilometre exclusive economic zone.

On Monday, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. held a security meeting. The main topic of the meeting was “the latest violation by China.” The President ordered the country’s Coast Guard to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident, which his office said is being “seriously considered at the highest levels of government.”

Washington said the Chinese Coast Guard “violated international law by deliberately preventing Philippine vessels from enjoying freedom of navigation on the high seas.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the US “issued the statement in violation of international law, baselessly attacking and blaming the legitimate rights and actions of China’s law enforcement agencies.” Mao stated that the Second Thomas Bank area had always been China’s territory. Mao said, referring to the Chinese names for the Second Thomas Shoal and Spratly Islands:

Renai Reef is an inseparable part of China’s Nansha Islands (Spratly Islands) geographically, economically, politically and historically.

Escalating tensions between China and the Philippines increased under Marcos, who complained about Beijing’s aggressive behaviour and sought rapprochement with traditional ally, the US. Maritime clashes between Manila and Beijing have become a regular occurrence in the South China Sea as both countries assert their territorial claims in strategically important waters.

The Philippines called on China to stop its “illegal” and “provocative” actions in the South China Sea. They said China should respect the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which said China’s expansive claims have no legal basis. One of the photos released by the Philippine Coast Guard showed three of the four boats carrying out the resupply operation on Sunday surrounded by seven larger Chinese Coast Guard vessels.

Jonathan Malaya, spokesman for the Philippine National Security Council, said China’s actions were the cause of Sunday’s clash, although Beijing’s embassy in Manila said the Philippine vessels had “trespassed” on the shoal. Malaya said:

We are relieved and thankful that no Filipino personnel were harmed. But we are concerned by the escalation and provocations by Chinese vessels, who have no business being in the West Philippine Sea.

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