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Philippines Accuses China Coast Guard of Harassment in South China Sea

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Wednesday accused China of harassing two of its vessels supporting a mission to deliver food and supplies to troops stationed at a military outpost in the South China Sea, the second such incident in about four months.

The MRRV-4402 and MRRV-4403 were escorting civilian boats with navy personnel on board when they were confronted by China Coast Guard vessels on June 30 near Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal), inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the PCG said. 

The Chinese ships carried out “aggressive actions” as soon as the Philippine boats neared 12 nautical miles of the shoal, where an old naval ship –  the BRP Sierra Madre – was deliberately run aground in 1999 to serve as a military post, PCG spokesman Commodore Jay Tarriela said. 

“During the operation, the PCG was constantly followed, harassed, and obstructed by the significantly larger Chinese Coast Guard vessels at a distance of approximately 100 yards,” Tarriela said of the efforts to prevent the Philippine boats from reaching Ayungin Shoal.

The actions were in direct contravention of the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, he said.

The PCG was also deeply concerned about the presence of two People’s Liberation Army Navy boats in the area while it was conducting “solely humanitarian” operations, Tarriela said. Nevertheless, the mission was successfully accomplished, he added. 

The Chinese Embassy in Manila has not responded to requests for comment.

The incident is the latest in a growing number of aggressions by China in the South China Sea, an important maritime trade route that is subject to overlapping claims from Beijing, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan.

China asserts sovereignty over nearly all of the disputed sea and has for years militarized artificial islands, while deploying coast guard boats, navy vessels, and a state-backed maritime militia around disputed areas.

In February, the Philippines protested a similar incident when the Chinese Coast Guard pointed a laser at one of its coast guard ships, causing temporary blindness to its crew.

Like the latest episode, the BRP Malapascua was supporting a rotation and resupply mission being conducted by the Philippine Navy at Ayungin Shoal. 

In August last year, a resupply mission by a different ship was also obstructed by Chinese Coast Guard vessels, which was aiding Chinese maritime militia in the area.

‘Barbie’ crosses the line

Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros described China’s latest act of aggression as reckless and irresponsible, and completely disrespectful of international law.

Hontiveros urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to raise the issue with the United Nations General Assembly.

“I hope that the Senate can tackle my resolution regarding this as soon as session resumes, as we need the support of the wider international community to stop China’s unbridled aggression,” Hontiveros told reporters on Wednesday. 

Another lawmaker, Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, said he was “deeply concerned” about the reported incident.

“This violates our sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as endangers the safety and security of our maritime forces,” Estrada said to reporters.

In 2016, an international tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines and against China’s sweeping “nine-dash line” by which it asserts its maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Beijing has refused to acknowledge the ruling and its unilateral demarcation remains a sensitive issue for its neighbors.

On Tuesday, Vietnam banned distribution of the popular “Barbie” movie because it includes a view of a map showing the line.

The Philippine Movie and Television Review and Classification Board said on Tuesday it was also reviewing whether to approve the release of the film in cinemas.

Last year, the film review board pulled the Hollywood action movie “Uncharted” from Philippine cinemas over a scene showing the “nine-dash line.”

Source : Benar News