Manila, Filipina (Associated Press) —
The Philippines and its ally, the United States (US), separately condemned attacks on the high seas carried out by the Chinese coast guard and ships suspected of belonging to militias on Saturday (9/12). In that incident, Chinese ships repeatedly fired water cannons to prevent three Filipino fishing boats from entering a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.
As reported by the Associated Press (AP), the daytime attack by Chinese ships off the coast of Scarborough Shoal was one of the most aggressive attacks this year. Philippine officials said the attack caused “significant damage” to communications and navigation equipment belonging to one of the three Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels.”
Without elaborating, the officials said that a number of vessels suspected of belonging to militia groups accompanying Chinese coast guard vessels used long-range acoustic devices that could damage hearing. The use of the device caused “severe temporary discomfort and paralyzed some of the Filipino crew.”
Aggressive action, illegal
The incident on Saturday (9/12) was the latest clash in a long-running territorial dispute in the South China Sea. This sea area has become a point of conflict that puts the US and China in opposing positions. China claims almost all parts of the strategic sea lane, but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also make different claims.
The territorial dispute between China and the Philippines over a number of offshore areas, including the Scarborough and Second Thomas shoals, has become increasingly heated this year. The US has warned that it has an obligation to defend the Philippines if Philippine troops, aircraft or ships face armed attack, including in the South China Sea. The Philippines and the US have a long-standing alliance agreement.
Map of the Scarborough Shoal lagoon in the South China Sea
In contrast, China has warned the US not to interfere in what it calls a purely Asian dispute. China has deployed ships and warplanes to monitor US Navy ships and planes, which periodically carry out freedom of navigation and overflight patrols in one of the world’s most disputed seas.
The Philippine government’s task force dealing with territorial disputes said Saturday (9/12) that it strongly condemns the illegal and aggressive actions carried out by China’s coast guard and China’s maritime militia against a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources civilian vessel.
“We demand that the Chinese Government take immediate action to stop its aggressive activities and uphold the principles of international law and refrain from carrying out actions that would encroach on Philippine sovereignty and endanger the lives and lives of Filipino fishermen,” the Philippine Government said .
The US Ambassador to the Philippines, Mary Kay Carlson, condemned China’s aggressive, illegal actions.
“This (China’s) behavior violates international law and endangers lives and livelihoods,” Carlsson said in a text post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“We stand with our Filipino friends, partners, allies in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Implementation of control measures
In a one-sentence statement posted on its website, it said it implemented lawful control measures against three Philippine service vessels that “intruded into the waters near Huangyan Island.” Huangyan is the Chinese name for Scarborough Shoal shoal.
Chinese Coast Guard ships sail near a floating barrier not far from the Scarborough Shoal lagoon, September 24, 2023. (Photo: Philippine Coast Guard via Reuters)
Philippine officials said ships belonging to the fisheries bureau sailed to Scarborough Shoal to provide humanitarian aid, namely free fuel oil (BBM) and Christmas food packages, to poor Filipino fishermen. They were on 30 ships sailing in a fish-rich but far-flung sea area, officials said.
They said a group of Chinese coast guards and accompanying ships carried out dangerous aggressive actions. These actions included the use of water cannon at least eight times, when Philippine government ships approached within 2.6 kilometers-3.5 kilometers of Scarborough Shoal.
They added that Chinese coastguards set up floating barriers at the entrance to the vast fishing lagoon at Scarborough Shoal and deployed personnel aboard small motorboats to chase away Filipino fishermen waiting at sea for distribution of fuel and food supplies.
“Obstructing the distribution of humanitarian aid is not only illegal, it is also inhumane,” the Philippine government task force said. (ft)