Manila/Beijing: ThePhilippineson Friday condemnedChina’s coast guardfor”unprovokedactsofcoercionand dangerous manoeuvres,” including its useofa water cannon against oneofits boats, in an attempttodisrupt aresupplymissionin the SouthChinaSea.
China’s actions, thePhilippinessaid, has not only “put the livesofour people at risk,” but have “put into question and significant doubt the sincerityofits callsforpeaceful dialogue”.
The regularresupplymissionssupport thePhilippines’ troops stationed in an intentionally grounded dilapidated warship on Second Thomas Shoal, a hotly disputed atoll in the SouthChinaSea that Manila calls Ayungin and is known as Renai Reef inChina.
Chinaclaims almost the entire SouthChinaSea, which includes the Second Thomas Shoal, and has deployed hundredsofvesselstopatrol there, including what Manila referstoas “Chinese maritime militia”, which it said were involved in the latest attempttoobstruct theresupplymission.
China’s coast guard on Friday said two smallPhilippinetransport ships and three coast guard ships entered the waters without the permissionofthe Chinese government and urged thePhilippinestostop infringing on Beijing’s sovereignty.
“TheChinacoast guard has followedPhilippinevessels in accordance with the law, taken control measures, and made temporary special arrangementsforthePhilippinesidetotransport food and other necessary daily necessities,” Beijing’s coast guard said in a statement.
ThePhilippines’ government said theresupplymissionwas completed, even as its boats were “subjectedtoextremely reckless and dangerous harassment at close proximity” by the Chinese coast guard’s inflatable boats inside the shoal.
Foryears, Manila and Beijing have been embroiled in on-off confrontations at the Second Thomas Shoal asChinahas become more assertive in pressing its maritime claims, alarming rival claimants and other states operating in the SouthChinaSea, including the United States.
Washington has thrown its support behind a 2016 ruling by the Permanent CourtofArbitration in the Hague, that said Beijing’s expansive claims had no legal basis, delivering a historic legal victoryforthePhilippines. Under the ruling, the shoal is inside thePhilippines’ exclusive economic zone.
“ThePhilippineshasactedresponsibly, consistent with a rules-based international law, on the basisofUNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award,” the task force said. “Peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regardforthe legitimate, well-established, and legally settled rightsofothers.”
China’s useofwater cannons followed a seriesofincidents in the SouthChinaSea, including the collisions betweenChina’s vessels and two Manila ships on Oct. 22. ThePhilippinesaccusedChinacoastguardof”intentionally” colliding with its vessels.
(Published 10 November 2023, 06:53 IST)