Philippines Says Chinese Envoy Summoned over 'Aggressive Actions' off Reef

This frame grab from aerial video footage taken and released on March 23, 2024 by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) shows a China Coast Guard ship (2nd L) and vessels identified by the Philippine Coast Guard as “Chinese Maritime Militia” (L and R) surrounding the Philippine Coast Guard ship BRP Cabra (2nd R) during its supply mission near Second Thomas Shoal in waters of the disputed South China Sea. Photo by Handout / Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) / AFP

Manila, Philippines -- The Philippines said Monday it had summoned a Chinese envoy over "aggressive actions" by the China Coast Guard and other vessels near a reef off the Southeast Asian country's coast.

Beijing and Manila have a long history of maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea and there have been repeated confrontations between their vessels near disputed reefs in recent months.

The latest incident took place Saturday near Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands during a regular Philippine mission to resupply Filipino troops garrisoned on the BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded navy ship.

The Philippines said the China Coast Guard blocked its supply vessel and damaged it with water cannon, injuring three soldiers.

The China Coast Guard has defended its actions, describing them as "lawful regulation, interception and expulsion" of a foreign vessel that "tried to forcefully intrude" into Chinese waters.

On Monday, Manila conveyed its "strong protest against the aggressive actions undertaken by the China Coast Guard and Chinese Maritime Militia against the rotation and resupply mission undertaken by the Philippines in Ayungin Shoal," the Department of Foreign Affairs said, using the Filipino name for Second Thomas Shoal.

It said the Philippine embassy in Beijing also lodged a similar protest with the Chinese foreign ministry.

"In these demarches, the Philippines stressed, among others, that China has no right to be in Ayungin Shoal," the foreign affairs department said.

"The Philippines demands that Chinese vessels leave the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal and the Philippine exclusive economic zone immediately."

It is the same location where Chinese ships have unleashed water cannon and collided with Filipino vessels in similar stand-offs in recent months.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, brushing off rival claims from other countries including the Philippines and an international ruling that its assertion has no legal basis.

Despite the attack, Philippine officials said the damaged vessel and a coast guard escort ship that came to its aid later deployed rigid-hull inflatable boats to deliver its cargo and personnel to the Filipino outpost.

Filipino soldiers stationed on the shoal live on the crumbling BRP Sierra Madre, and require frequent resupplies for food, water and other necessities as well as transport for personnel rotations.

Apart from supplies and equipment, the Philippine military said six navy personnel were delivered to the BRP Sierra Madre on Saturday, replacing one soldier who was recently evacuated on medical grounds.

The damaged supply boat and its escorts sailed back to port after completing their mission, the task force said.


© Agence France-Presse

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