Philippines accuses Chinese boats of 'dangerous' actions

A photo taken on 16 February shows Chinese coast guard personnel recording activity on board the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) ship BRP Datu Tamblot near the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal, in disputed waters of the South China Sea. Photo: AFP
A photo taken on 16 February shows Chinese coast guard personnel recording activity on board the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) ship BRP Datu Tamblot near the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal, in disputed waters of the South China Sea. Photo: AFP

Summary

  • The incidents happened near the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal on Thursday and Friday, several days after the Philippine Coast Guard made similar accusations against Chinese boats in the same area.

The Philippines on Saturday accused Chinese coast guard ships of "dangerous" manoeuvres after they repeatedly blocked a Filipino vessel delivering supplies to fishermen at a reef off the Southeast Asian nation's coast.

The incidents happened near the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal on Thursday and Friday, several days after the Philippine Coast Guard made similar accusations against Chinese boats in the same area.

Scarborough Shoal -- a triangular shaped chain of reef and rocks in the disputed South China Sea -- has been a flashpoint between the countries since China seized it from the Philippines in 2012.

Since then, Beijing has deployed patrol boats that Manila says harass Philippine vessels and prevent Filipino fishermen from reaching a lagoon where fish are more plentiful.

In the latest incidents, a Chinese navy ship, China Coast Guard vessels and other Chinese boats shadowed a Philippine vessel belonging to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources that was bringing food and fuel to Filipino fishermen, allowing them to spend more time at sea and pursue a larger catch.

AFP correspondents and journalists from several local outlets were on board the Philippines' BRP Datu Tamblot for the three-day roundtrip.

The Datu Tamblot and the China Coast Guard vessels issued repeated radio challenges to each other, with each side accusing the other of encroaching into their territorial waters.

On four occasions, Chinese coast guard vessels briefly blocked the Datu Tamblot by crossing its bow and stopping in its path as it neared the shoal.

"It's not permitted for any vessel to cross the bow of another vessel because it is very dangerous," Philippine Coast Guard Commodore Jay Tarriela told a news conference in Manila.

Tarriela, who is the coast guard's spokesman for the West Philippine Sea, said such actions could "cause a collision".

Despite the Chinese actions, the Datu Tamblot was able to get within a few kilometres of the shoal and deliver 21,000 litres (5,550 gallons) of diesel and other provisions to 19 Philippine fishing boats, Tarriela said.

Scarborough Shoal is 240 kilometres (150 miles) west of the Philippines' main island of Luzon and nearly 900 kilometres from the nearest major Chinese land mass of Hainan.

China claims almost the entire sea and has ignored an international tribunal ruling that its assertions have no legal basis.

The incidents came after tense standoffs between China and the Philippines around disputed reefs in the South China Sea last year that saw collisions between vessels from the two countries and Chinese ships blasting water cannon at Philippine boats.

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