In the South China Sea, a Chinese coast guard ship and one of its militia vessels were involved in separate collisions with a Philippine coast guard ship and a military-operated supply boat on Sunday. Philippine officials have characterized these incidents as “dangerous, irresponsible, and illegal actions.”
Beijing and Manila engaged in a blame game following two collisions involving Chinese vessels and Philippine boats, which were on a mission to re-supply Filipino troops stationed on a remote outpost within the contested South China Sea. These incidents occurred in the vicinity of the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands, a highly disputed area where Beijing deploys its ships to assert control over nearly the entire sea.
According to a Philippine government task force, a collision occurred approximately 25 kilometers from the Shoal due to what they described as the “dangerous blocking maneuvers” by China Coast Guard vessel 5203, leading to it colliding with the indigenous resupply boat contracted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. China, on the other hand, stated that the collision was a “minor incident” and occurred because the resupply boat disregarded “multiple warnings” and deliberately engaged with law enforcement in an unprofessional and hazardous manner, as reported by state broadcaster CCTV, citing the foreign ministry.
Earlier, in a dispute on October 13, the Philippines accused China of engaging in perilous and unlawful actions within the South China Sea dispute.
In a separate occurrence, a Philippine coastguard vessel, accompanying the regular resupply mission, encountered what the Philippine task force termed as a “bump” from a “Chinese Maritime Militia vessel.” In contrast, China alleged that the Philippine boat intentionally created a disturbance by reversing into a Chinese fishing vessel in a premeditated manner. The Philippine vessel proceeded with its intended course, and it remains uncertain whether any damage resulted from this incident.
China stated that “responsibility lies entirely with the Philippines” for what occurred on Sunday. As China asserts its claims to control over the seas, authorities and experts have warned of the possibility of collisions.
“This is exactly the kind of event that can happen given their dangerous maneuvering,” said Jay Batongbacal, head of the Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea at the University of the Philippines.
In August, tensions escalated as China Coast Guard vessels employed water cannons to obstruct a Philippine resupply mission bound for Second Thomas Shoal, resulting in the prevention of one of the boats from unloading its cargo. In a previous incident in April, a Chinese vessel narrowly avoided colliding with a significantly smaller Philippine Coast Guard vessel in the same vicinity. Manila and Beijing have a long history of South China Sea maritime conflicts.