China Coast Guard water cannons, rams Philippine boats on resupply mission

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
China Coast Guard water cannons, rams Philippine boats on resupply mission
Handout photo from Philippine Coast Guard shows a China Coast Guard vessel firing a water cannon at a Philippine boat on a resupply mission.
Philippine Coast Guard

MANILA, Philippines (Update 1: 12:05 p.m.) — The China Coast Guard (CCG) rammed and fired water cannons at Philippine vessels engaged in a resupply mission to military personnel stationed on BRP Sierra Madre, the Philippine Coast Guard said Sunday. 

The National Task Force-West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said in a statement that the CCG and Chinese maritime militia vessels “harassed, blocked, and executed dangerous maneuvers on Philippine civilian supply vessels” on their way to Ayungin Shoal Sunday morning. 

This was the latest confrontation between the Philippines and China in the tense waterway, through which trillions of dollars of trade pass annually.

According to the task force, a CCG vessel used water cannons against Philippine supply vessels. The NTF-WPS said this caused “severe damage” to the engines of M/L Kalayaan, “disabling the vessel and seriously endangering the lives of its crew.”

Currently, PCG’s BRP Sindangan is towing M/Kalayaan back to Ulugan Bay in Palawan.

“Additionally, BRP Cabra suffered damage to its mast after being directly targeted by the full strength of the water cannon of the China Coast Guard,” the NTF-WPS said.

Ramming incident

The task force also reported that the PCG vessels and resupply boats M/L Kalayaan and Unaizah Mae 1 (UM1) “were subjected to reckless and dangerous harassment at close range” by CCG and militia vessels. It added that a CCG vessel “rammed” UM1. 

Despite these actions, UM1 reached BRP Sierra Madre, and the resupply mission is currently ongoing.

In a statement, the CCG accused a Philippine boat of “deliberately colliding” with a Chinese vessel after “disregarding our multiple stern warnings.”

The incident comes a day after the CCG also used water cannons to prevent the vessels of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources from approaching Filipino fishing vessels near Bajo de Masinloc off Zambales. 

The impact of the water cannons caused “significant” damage to one of the boat’s communication and navigation equipment.

Peace, stability in region

“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,” the NTF-WPS said. 

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

China asserts sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including parts claimed by the Philippines, despite an international court ruling in 2016 that deemed its stance to have no legal basis.

Ayungin Shoal is about 200 kilometers from Palawan, and more than 1,000 kilometers from China's nearest major landmass, Hainan island.

Tensions between Manila and Beijing have escalated as China becomes more assertive in pressing its claims to the waters, with the Philippines publishing strongly worded statements with videos and photos of the incidents.

“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,” the NTF-WPS said. — with report from Agence France-Presse

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