Escalating Tensions in the South China Sea: China Coast Guard Fires Water Cannons at Philippine Vessels

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China Coast Guard Fires Water Cannons at Philippine Vessels

The Philippines has reported an incident in which the China Coast Guard (CCG) fired water cannons at two of its vessels, causing damage to one of them. The incident occurred near the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal, a disputed area in the South China Sea. The Philippines had sent the vessels on a mission to resupply Filipino fishermen in the area.

Details of the Incident

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel, BRP Bankaw, was about 12 nautical miles from Scarborough Shoal when the CCG-3305 fired its water cannon, directly hitting the starboard astern of the BFAR vessel. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) escort vessel, BRP Bagacay, was also targeted by the CCG-3105 and CCG-5303, damaging the railing and canopy.

The PCG stated that the damage to the vessels serves as evidence of the forceful water pressure used by the China Coast Guard in their harassment of the Philippine vessels. It is worth noting that the CCG-3305 was not broadcasting a detectable Automatic Information System (AIS) signal, which is required by international maritime regulations.

Philippine Vessels Stand Their Ground

Despite the harassment and provocative actions of the CCG, both the PCG and BFAR vessels stood their ground and continued their maritime patrol. The primary objective of the mission was to distribute fuel and food supplies to Filipino fishermen in the area.

Prior to the water cannon incident, the Philippine vessels encountered dangerous maneuvers and obstructions from four CCG vessels and six Chinese maritime militia vessels. The CCG had installed a 380-meter barrier across the entrance to Scarborough Shoal, blocking access to the traditional fishing ground.

Background on the Disputed Area

Scarborough Shoal is a triangular chain of reefs and rocks located 240 kilometers west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon. It is nearly 900 kilometers away from the nearest major Chinese land mass of Hainan. China seized the shoal from the Philippines in 2012 and has since deployed coast guard and other vessels in the area.

The Philippines has repeatedly accused China of harassing its ships and preventing its fishermen from accessing the fish-rich lagoon in Scarborough Shoal. China, on the other hand, claims almost the entire South China Sea, disregarding rival claims from other countries, including the Philippines. An international ruling has stated that China’s assertion has no legal basis.

Escalating Maritime Disputes

The Philippines and China have a long history of maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea. In recent months, there have been several collisions involving Filipino and Chinese vessels, as well as instances of water cannoning by the China Coast Guard.

This latest incident comes at a time when the Philippines and the United States are conducting a major annual military exercise, which has drawn criticism from Beijing. The tensions in the region continue to escalate, and it remains to be seen how the situation will be resolved.

Source: The Manila Times

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