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China ships ram PH vessels

BOLDER AND BOLDER BY THE DAY. A Filipino crewmember of a resupply boat contracted by the Philippine Navy watches as a China Coast Guard vessel (5203) collides with the stern of the boat. Below photo shows the Chinese militia vessel (00003) hitting the post side of the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Cabra (right). Screenshots from videos released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines
Vince Lopez, Rey E. Requejo, Macon Ramos-Araneta and Rio N. Araja

US, Canada, EU condemn Ayungin incidents as solons seek UNGA case

A Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) ship collided with a boat contracted by the Philippine Navy and “bumped” into the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Cabra that were heading to Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal for a resupply mission, officials said Sunday.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said the incident occurred at 6:04 a.m., when CCG Vessel 5203 took “dangerous blocking maneuvers” that caused a collision with the resupply boat Unaiza May 2 (UM2) about 13.5 nautical miles east northeast of the BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal.

The UM2 was conducting a regular and routine rotation and resupply (RoRe) mission to BRP Sierra Madre, which the Philippines deliberately grounded on Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to serve as an outpost for Filipino troops.

“The provocative, irresponsible, and illegal action of CCGV 5203 imperiled the safety of the crew of UM2,” the task force said in a statement.

During the same RoRe mission, the NTF-WPS said BRP Cabra’s port side was also “bumped” by Chinese maritime militia vessel 00003 (CMMV 00003) while it was about 6.4 nautical miles northeast of Ayungin Shoal.

China played down the incident as a “slight collision” and blamed the Philippine side for ignoring “multiple warnings” and passing through “law enforcement in an unprofessional and dangerous manner.”

In a statement posted on its website, the China Coast Guard said they “lawfully” intercepted Philippine vessels transporting “illegal construction materials” apparently intended to be used to fix the dilapidated BRP Sierra Madre.

“Since the Philippine side ignored China’s repeated warnings, the China Coast Guard responded lawfully and blocked the Philippine vessels which were illegally carrying construction materials,” CCG spokesman Gan Yu added.

The governments of the United States, Canada and the European Union, however, quickly criticized China’s actions.

Ambassador MaryKay Carlson said the United States condemned China’s “latest disruption of a legal Philippine resupply mission” that put “the lives of Filipino service members at risk.”

Canada called the incident “unjustified,” saying that “China has no lawful claim to the West Philippine Sea.”

“The Embassy of Canada condemns the unlawful and dangerous conduct of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels on 22 October 2023, which provoked two collisions with Philippine vessels engaged in routine operations inside the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone, in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal,” the Embassy of Canada said.

“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,” the embassy added.

It also stated that “continuing acts of intimidation and coercion undermine safety, stability, and security across the region, and increase the risk of miscalculation.”

The European Union (EU) Delegation in Manila also raised concern over repeated Chinese incursions in the WPS.

EU Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron on Sunday said they “join the Philippines in its call for the full observance of international law in the South China Sea.”

“These incidents, their repetition and intensification are dangerous and very disturbing,” Veron said on X.

The NTF-WPS said the incident violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights.

“The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) condemns in the strongest degree the latest dangerous, irresponsible, and illegal actions of the CCG and the Chinese Maritime Militia done this morning, in violation of Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction and in utter blatant disregard of the United Nations Charter, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) and relevant international maritime conventions, and the 2016 Arbitral Award,” it said in a statement.

A second resupply boat was able to reach the grounded BRP Sierra Madre and “successfully resupply our troops and personnel stationed there,” the statement said.

In defiance of a UN tribunal ruling that its claims have no legal basis, China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually.

Ayungin Shoal is about 200 kilometers from the western Philippine island of Palawan, and more than 1,000 kilometers from China’s nearest major landmass, Hainan island.

The Philippine Navy deliberately grounded the World War II-era BRP Sierra Madre on the shoal in 1999 to check China’s advance in the waters.

The troops stationed on the crumbling ship depend on regular supply deliveries for their survival.

The CCG said that the warship was “illegally sitting on the beach.”

Previously, China has urged the Philippines to tow away BRP Sierra Madre.

In the second incident, China accused the Philippine boat of “deliberately” stirring up trouble by reversing in a “premeditated manner” into a Chinese fishing vessel.

Video released by the Philippine military showed the bow of the CCG ship and the stern of the resupply vessel briefly touching.

China said “responsibility lies entirely with the Philippines” for Sunday’s incidents.

As China moves ever more confidently to assert its claims to sovereignty over the waters, officials and experts have warned of the potential for collisions.

“This is exactly the kind of event that can happen given their dangerous maneuvering,” said Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

Batongbacal said the Chinese coastguard had deliberately hit the Philippine resupply vessel to see how Manila would respond and test the resolve of the Philippines’ longtime ally Washington.

“You don’t accidentally hit another vessel out in the open ocean,” Batongbacal said.

The Philippines has outposts on nine reefs and islands in the Spratlys, including Ayungin Shoal.

Manila and Beijing have a long history of maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

Tensions flared in August when China Coast Guard vessels used water cannons against a Philippine resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, preventing one of the boats from delivering its cargo.

A Chinese ship in April narrowly missed colliding with a much smaller Philippine Coast Guard vessel in the same area.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Sunday questioned if a mere diplomatic protest would suffice.

“We must defend our rights and protect our citizens from harm,” said Estrada, who chairs the Senate committee on national defense.’

“We strongly condemn the reckless and hostile behavior of the Chinese Coast Guard towards our resupply boat contracted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” Estrada said.

Estrada said these actions not only violate maritime norms and international law, but also pose a threat to the safety and security of the region.

He noted that China, on several occasions. did the blocking of Philippine ships.

“These incidents are no longer acceptable,” said, adding these were signs of disrespect.

“This is a violation of our sovereign rights and an assault on our maritime personnel; it is completely unacceptable,” he said.

Senator Francis Tolentino said the latest incident showed that China simply ignored the policies under international law and basic maritime safety.

He said there should be a thorough investigation under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the Code for Investigation of Marine Casualties Incidents under the International Maritime Organization.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the 2016 Arbitral Award had resolutely invalidated China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea, making the latest incident a clear violation of international law.

“I call on the international community to join the Philippines’ condemnation of China’s most recent violence against the Filipino people. Our nations should not stop fighting for the rule of law,” she said.

ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro on Sunday condemned China’s escalating aggressive actions in the WPS. She suggested filing a case against China before the United Nations General Assembly. With AFP

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