Philippines accuses Chinese vessels of ‘dangerous’ manoeuvres in South China Sea

The Philippine Coast Guard on Sunday accused Chinese vessels of “dangerous” manoeuvres during a nine-day patrol near a reef off the coast of the Southeast Asian country.

The Philippine vessel BRP Teresa Magbanua was deployed in early February to patrol the waters around Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground in the South China Sea, and deliver provisions to Filipino fishermen and ensure their safety.

The reef has been a flashpoint between the countries since China seized it from the Philippines in 2012.

Protesters hold placards during a rally outside the Chinese consular office in Manila last week. Filipino fishermen said the demonstration was organised to condemn China’s harassment of Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea. Photo: EPA-EFE

Since then, Beijing has deployed patrol boats that Manila says harass Philippine vessels and prevent Filipino fishermen from reaching the lagoon where fish are more plentiful.

During the patrol, Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels “performed dangerous and blocking manoeuvres at sea against BRP Teresa Magbanua four times, with the CCG vessels crossing the bow of the PCG vessel twice”, the Philippine Coast Guard said in a statement.

The Philippine Coast Guard said its ship was also “shadowed” by four Chinese Coast Guard vessels “on more than 40 occasions”.

PLA patrols South China Sea amid strained ties with the Philippines

The coastguard also observed what it described as “four Chinese Maritime Militia vessels”.

Videos released by the Philippine Coast Guard show a Chinese Coast Guard vessel metres from the port beam of the BRP Teresa Magbanua, before it crosses the path of the Filipino boat.

“Nevertheless, the PCG vessel professionally engaged both the CCG and CMM vessels through radio reiterating the clear and principled position of the Philippines in accordance with international law,” the statement said.

The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Livelihoods lost: The fishermen snared in the Scarborough Shoal dispute

Livelihoods lost: The fishermen snared in the Scarborough Shoal dispute

Scarborough Shoal is 240km (150 miles) west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and nearly 900km from the nearest major Chinese land mass of Hainan.

Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China helped negotiate, countries have jurisdiction over the natural resources within about 200 nautical miles (370km) of their shore.

The Philippine coastguard also distributed food and groceries to a hundred Filipino fishermen in 14 boats, the statement said.

The incidents came two months after tense stand-offs between China and the Philippines around disputed reefs in the South China Sea that saw a collision between vessels from the two countries and Chinese ships blasting water cannon at Philippine boats.

‘Show our swords’: Beijing must harden stance in the South China Sea, expert says

China claims almost the entire sea and has ignored an international tribunal ruling that its assertions have no legal basis.

It deploys boats to patrol the busy waterway and has built artificial islands that it has militarised to reinforce its claims.

Chinese and Philippine officials last month agreed on the need for closer dialogue to deal with “maritime emergencies” in the waterway.

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