Philippine Ships Bumped By Chinese Vessels In Latest Incident
On Sunday morning, China Coast Guard vessels 5203 (CCGV 5203) blocked and collided with the Philippines-contracted civilian boat Unaiza May 2 (UM2) used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
“While conducting a regular and routine Rotation and Resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre, dangerous blocking maneuvers of China Coast Guard caused it to collide,” the National task Force for the West Philippine sea said in a statement.
The NTF-WPS described Chinese latest action as “provocative, irresponsible and illegal” as the incident “imperiled the safety of the crew” of the Filipino boats.
“We condemned the act in the strongest degree,” the NTF-WPS said, citing the collision as a violation of Philippine sovereignty, rights, and jurisdiction.
The task force further emphasized that the incident flagrantly disregarded numerous international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Arbitral Award against China.
So far, there were no reported damages or injuries from Filipino sailors as brought about by the incidents.
Moreover, there was no statement from the Philippine government if it would trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty of Philippines and United States designed to enhance force capability and strengthen cooperation in maritime security.
Signed in 1951, the MDT calls on both countries to aid each other in times of aggression by an external power. The Pentagon previously said it was prepared to assist Manila if it invoked the treaty amid threats from other nations.
Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said any damage or injury is clearly on China’s hands.
“This is clearly out in the open sea, two ships with so much room to maneuver do not collide unintentionally in a situation like this,” he said.
“No doubt that China will go into overdrive to spin this around, but the pictures and videos do not lie,” he added,
Batongbacal said Chinese ships tried to squeeze and crush the UM2 which was trying to avoid a collision while Chinese maritime militia deliberately grazed the stationary PCG vessel.
In Manila, US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson condemned China’s latest disruption of Philippine resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, describing the action endangering the lives of Filipino service members.
“We stand with our friends, partners and allies in protecting sovereignty and in support of a Free and open indoPacific,” she said.
“The United States condemns PRCs latest disruptions of a legal Philippine resupply mission, putting the lives of Filipino service members at risk,” she added.
Canada also condemned what they described as unlawful and dangerous conduct of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels, which provoked two collisions with Philippine vessels engaged in routine operations inside the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.
“The PRC’s actions are unjustified. China has no lawful claim to the West Philippine Sea. Its actions are incompatible with the obligations of a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Canada said in a statement.
“Continuing acts of intimidation and coercion undermine safety, stability, and security across the region, and increase the risk of miscalculation,” it added.
Also, Canada affirmed its support for a rules-based order in the South China Sea consistent with international law, including UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral decision, which is final and binding on the parties.
China has competing claims in the South China Sea with the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
In 2016, a U.N. arbitration court ruled in favor of the Philippines, saying that China’s historical claims to the sea region as delineated then in Chinese maps by a nine-dash line (now a 10-dash line) were invalid. But Beijing rejected the ruling and has since insisted that it has jurisdiction over all areas within that boundary.
Manila had brought Beijing to the court in 2012 after accusing its naval ships of blocking the Philippines’ access to Scarborough Shoal, which has remained under China’s administrative control ever since.
The latest maritime incident occurred days after the Philippines and the United States conducted joint naval drills in the South China Sea earlier this month involving 600 U.S. Navy personnel and about the same number of Filipino seamen.
Last October 13, China’s navy “dangerously” shadowing a Philippine ship en route to Commodore Reef, located within Manila’s exclusive economic zone, as part of a resupply mission when the standoff took place.
Manila accused the China Coast Guard of deploying a 328-yard-long floating barrier to obstruct the entrance to the disputed Scarborough Shoal. The next day, the Philippine Coast Guard removed the barrier in a “special operation.”