Four Philippine navy personnel injured as China blocks supply boats (update)

File photo of a Chinese Coast Guard ship sailing past a Philippine fishing boat near the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal. - AFP

MANILA: Four Philippine navy personnel were injured on Tuesday (March 5) when Chinese ships targeted their boat with water cannons to block them from bringing supplies to soldiers stationed in a shoal in the disputed South China Sea, Filipino officials said.

The navy personnel were aboard one of two supply boats going to Second Thomas Shoal, locally called Ayungin Shoal, which lies 105 nautical miles (195km) west of the Philippines' province of Palawan and is within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

The Philippine boats were carrying supplies for soldiers stationed on BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine navy ship anchored in the shoal since it ran aground in 1999, marking the country's claim to the area.

Chinese coastguard ships and maritime militia vessels "harassed, blocked, deployed water cannons and executive dangerous manoeuvres in another attempt to illegally impede or obstruct a routine resupply mission" to the BRP Siera Madre, the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea said in a statement.

Two Chinese coastguard ships deployed water cannons simultaneously against the supply boat Unaizah May 4 (UM4), the task force said.

"The use of water cannons by the Chinese coastguard vessels shattered the windshield of UM4, causing minor injuries to at least four personnel on board," it added.

One Chinese coastguard ship also collided with a Philippine coastguard vessel, the BRP Sindangan, resulting in "minor structural damage," said Commodore Jay Tarriela, the Filipino coastguard spokesman on South China Sea issues.

The UM4 and BRP Sindangan were forced to turn back, while the other civilian boat reached Second Thomas Shoal, the task force said.

It was the second time that a collision happened between Philippine and Chinese coastguard vessels during a resupply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal. The first incident was in Nov 12, 2023.

"Once again, China's latest unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous manoeuvres against a legitimate and routine Philippine resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal have put the lives of our people at risk and caused actual injury to Filipinos on board UM4," the task force said.

Despite China's aggression, the task force stressed, "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," it added.

China, which claims almost the entire South China Sea, has taken increasingly aggressive actions in the area in recent years. It has ignored a 2016 ruling by an international arbitration court that it has no legal or historical basis for its expansive claims.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to the area, which is believed to be rich in natural resources. - dpa

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Philippines , China , ships , coast guard


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