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Crew injured after Chinese, Philippine ships collide in South China Sea

Warships attached to a naval flotilla under the PLA Southern Theater Command perform alongside replenishment at sea during a recent training exercise. (eng.chinamil.com.cn/Photo by Li Junlin)

Tensions continue to rise in the South China Sea after recent collisions between ships from the People’s Republic of China and the Philippines.

Tensions continue to rise in the South China Sea after recent collisions between ships from the People’s Republic of China and the Philippines.

In a recent altercation on 23 March, four crew members were injured when a China Coast Guard vessel collided with, water cannoned, and shattered the windscreen of a Philippine boat undertaking a resupply mission around Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands.

The resupply mission was likely conducted to assist Filipino military personnel stationed on the grounded Philippine navy vessel, BRP Sierra Madre.

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“China Coast Guard and Chinese Maritime Militia vessels harassed, blocked, deployed water cannons, and executed dangerous manoeuvres in another attempt to illegally impede or obstruct a routine resupply and rotation mission,” according to a statement released by a Philippine government task force.

The Second Thomas Shoal, heavily contested by the PRC, is about 200 kilometres from the western Philippine island of Palawan and more than 1,000 kilometres from the PRC’s Hainan island.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, speaking at the recent ASEAN summit in Melbourne, said the country will not surrender an inch of territory or maritime jurisdiction.

The PRC Defense Ministry has reportedly warned the Philippines to stop all infringement and provocation actions in the region. The Ministry claims Philippine ships illegally entered the waters adjacent to Ren’ai Reef off China’s Nansha Islands and were intercepted and expelled.

A PRC Foreign Ministry spokesperson, describing the altercations between the China Coast Guard and Philippines ships on 23 March, said China’s handling of the situation was reasonable, lawful, professional and standard.

“In disregard of China’s strong opposition, the Philippines sent a supply vessel and two Coast Guard vessels on March 23, without permission from the Chinese government, to intrude into the adjacent waters of Ren’ai Jiao of China’s Nansha Qundao, in an attempt to send construction materials to the military vessel illegally grounded at Ren’ai Jiao for its repair and reinforcement. China Coast Guard took necessary measures at sea in accordance with law to safeguard China’s rights, firmly obstructed the Philippines’ vessels, and foiled the Philippines’ attempt,” the spokesperson said.

“Nansha Qundao and its adjacent waters, including Ren’ai Jiao, have always been China’s territory. This is established in the long course of history and complies with international law.

“The Philippines should immediately stop its infringement and provocation, and refrain from undermining peace and stability in the South China Sea.

“If the Philippines insists on going its own way, China will continue to adopt resolute measures to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. The Philippines should be prepared to bear all potential consequences.”

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