China blasts Philippine vessel anew with water cannon

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
China blasts Philippine vessel anew with water cannon
The Chinese Coast Guard kept its post inside the lagoon of Scarborough shoal while fishermen were seen at the perimeter during the regular maritime survey of the Bureau of Fish and Aquatic Resources on September 28, 2023.
Michael Varcas / The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — China Coast Guard and militia vessels again used water cannons and made dangerous maneuvers in an attempt yesterday to block a Philippine resupply mission for troops stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

The incident was the latest in a series of confrontations between the two nations over maritime disputes that risk turning into more serious armed engagements.

“At 7:30 a.m., today, Nov. 10, 2023, CCG and CMM vessels recklessly harassed, blocked and executed dangerous maneuvers in another attempt to illegally impede or obstruct a routine resupply and rotation mission to BRP Sierra Madre (LS 57) at Ayungin Shoal,” the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said in statement. CMM refers to the Chinese maritime militia.

Philippine resupply boats Unaizah Mae 1 (UM1) and M/L Kalayaan were able to reach the Sierra Madre to unload their cargo “despite being subjected to extremely reckless and dangerous harassment at close proximity” by CCG’s rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) inside the Ayungin Shoal lagoon.

The NTF-WPS said CCG vessel with hull number 5203 blasted the Kalayaan with water cannon “in an illegal though unsuccessful attempt to force the latter to alter course.”

It said the Philippine embassy in Beijing has raised a protest before the Chinese foreign ministry while the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has conveyed its indignation through the Maritime Communications Mechanism.

“We firmly insist that Chinese vessels responsible for these illegal activities leave the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal immediately. We condemn, once again, China’s latest unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous maneuvers against a legitimate and routine Philippine rotation and resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, that has put the lives of our people at risk,” the task force said.

“The systematic and consistent manner in which the People’s Republic of China carries out these illegal and irresponsible actions puts into question and significant doubt the sincerity of its calls for peaceful dialogue,” its statement read.

The NTF-WPS noted that the Philippines has acted responsibly, consistent with rules-based international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague.

“Peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regard for the legitimate, well-established and legally settled rights of others,” the task force stressed.


President Marcos commended the courage, commitment and dedication to duty of the men and women of the PCG, the Philippine Navy, the Armed Forces of the Philippines “who go on these missions, placing their lives on the line in the service of the nation.”

“The Philippines will not be deterred from exercising our legal rights over our maritime zones, including Ayungin Shoal which forms part of our exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. We demand that China demonstrate that it is a responsible and trustworthy member of the international community,” the task force said.

Defending its latest actions, China – through CCG spokesman Gan Yu – maintained that the Philippine vessels were trespassing into Chinese territorial waters.

The Chinese coast guard said two small cargo vessels and three Philippine coast guard ships “arbitrarily trespassed into the waters near China’s Ren’ai Reef.” China uses its own names for many locations in the South China Sea.

“The China Coast Guard tracked and monitored the ships, took regulatory measures and made temporary special arrangements for the Philippines to deliver food and other daily necessities,” the CCG statement read.

“The Philippines’ act infringes upon China’s territorial sovereignty, violates the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and breaks its own promise,” Gan added, apparently referring to the supposed promise made by Philippine authorities to remove the Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal.

Manila has insisted no such promise was made.

“We urge the Philippine side to stop its infringement behavior immediately. The China Coast Guard will continue to carry out law enforcement activities in the waters under China’s jurisdiction in accordance with the law, and resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” Gan said.

On Aug. 5, the CCG also fired water cannons at an Ayungin Shoal bound Philippine resupply boat. The Chinese foreign ministry would defend the CCG, claiming it acted appropriately, professionally and with restraint.

In an attempt to stop a resupply mission on Oct. 22, a Chinese ship made dangerous moves and hit a smaller Philippine vessel in the process. The Chinese said then they had to stop the Filipino vessel from entering Ayungin Shoal “without authorization.”

Territorial conflicts in the South China Sea involving the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have long been regarded as a potential flashpoint and a delicate fault line in the US-China rivalry.

After last month’s incident in which Chinese ships blocked and collided with two Philippine vessels off the shoal, the United States renewed a warning that it would defend the Philippines in case of an armed attack under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

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