China’s coastguard claims it drove off Philippine ship from disputed Scarborough Shoal

The Chinese coastguard said it drove off a Philippine vessel that had “illegally intruded” into waters near the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea – a claim disputed by the Philippines.

In a statement on Thursday, the coastguard said it chased away the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) ship – which it identified by the number 3002 – in accordance with the law. It did not give further details of the incident.

The BFAR vessel is the BRP Datu Sanday, a ship that has previously been used for resupply missions to disputed islands and atolls in the South China Sea, including Scarborough Shoal.

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The Philippine coastguard on Thursday disputed the Chinese claim, saying the statement was “inaccurate” and that the Datu Sanday was still patrolling in waters near the shoal.

“Currently, the BFAR vessel is actively ensuring the security of Filipino fishermen in that area,” Commodore Jay Tarriela, a coastguard spokesman, said on X. “Some of our media friends are embedded on board the BFAR vessel, and their forthcoming reports upon completion of the mission will confirm the accuracy of our statement.”

Manila announced last week that Philippine coastguard and BFAR vessels would be sent to the shoal from this month “to protect the rights and safety of Filipino fishermen” in the waters.

That came after China’s coastguard last month said it had chased away four Filipinos who had “illegally” entered the waters.

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Both China and the Philippines lay claim to Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground in the middle of the South China Sea. The shoal is located around 220km (120 nautical miles) west of the Philippine island of Luzon and about 1,000km (590 nautical miles) east of China’s Hainan Island.

China took control of the shoal in 2012 after a tense stand-off, prompting Manila to launch an international arbitration case over their maritime disputes. Beijing rejected the 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that its territorial claims to most of the South China Sea – within what it calls the “nine-dash line” – have no legal basis.

China’s sweeping claims to the resource-rich waterway are also contested by Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

The latest incident comes as tensions have been rising over Scarborough Shoal.

The Datu Sanday was one of three Philippine vessels involved in a confrontation with the Chinese coastguard in December, when Manila accused the coastguard of using water cannon to “obstruct” the vessels, which were delivering fuel and food supplies to more than 30 Philippine fishing boats near the shoal.

China claimed the boats had “intruded” into the waters.

Filipino fisherman tells Chinese coastguard to ‘go away’ from disputed shoal

On Saturday, the Philippines claimed that Chinese fishermen were using cyanide to catch fish near and “intentionally destroy” Scarborough Shoal, an accusation Beijing has denied. Cyanide fishing can damage the ecosystem and has been banned in many places, including the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the People’s Liberation Army on Monday sent naval and air forces to monitor a joint air patrol involving Philippine fighter jets and a US bomber over the South China Sea.

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