Philippines accuses China of attempting to block another vessel

Scarborough Shoal has been a flashpoint between the countries since China seized it from the Philippines in 2012. - PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (AFP) : The Philippines on Sunday accused the Chinese coast guard of attempting to block a Filipino government vessel delivering supplies to fishermen, the second such alleged incident near a disputed reef in two weeks.

The BRP Datu Sanday was supplying fuel to fishermen near the Scarborough Shoal when it was harassed by a China Coast Guard vessel and three other Chinese ships on February 22, the Philippine Coast Guard said.

Three of the four Chinese vessels came within 100 metres (328 feet) of Datu Sanday's bow, it said in an incident report that also listed shadowing, vessel transponder jamming and other "dangerous manoeuvres".

"Despite these manoeuvres, the skipper of BRP Datu Sanday exhibited excellent seamanship skills and managed to evade the blocking attempts," said Commodore Jay Tarriela, the Filipino coast guard spokesman on South China Sea issues.

A week earlier, the Philippine Coast Guard said the BRP Datu Tamblot had a similar encounter in the area.

Scarborough Shoal -- a triangular chain of reefs and rocks -- has been a flashpoint between the countries since China seized it from the Philippines in 2012.

Since then, Beijing has deployed patrol boats that Manila says harass Philippine vessels and prevent Filipino fishermen from accessing a fish-rich lagoon there.

On social media, China's state-run Global Times said on Saturday that the China Coast Guard had repelled the Datu Sanday "when the vessel illegally intruded into waters adjacent to China's Huangyan Island," using the Chinese name for the shoal.

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

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

Tense standoffs between China and the Philippines around disputed reefs last year saw collisions and Chinese ships blasting water cannon at Philippine boats. - AFP

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