Philippines accuses China of targeting fishing boats in South China Sea

Manila says Chinese coastguard shot water canon at Filipino vessels in disputed South China Sea.

Chinese coastguard personnel on board inflatable boats sailing near a Chinese Maritime Militia vessel in the Scarborough Shoal in waters off the disputed South China Sea [File: Ted Aljibe/AFP]

The Philippines has accused the Chinese coastguard of using water cannon to “obstruct” three government boats that were conducting their regular resupply mission near a reef off its coast in the South China Sea.

The incident on Saturday took place near the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by both countries, and which Beijing seized from Manila in 2012 after a months-long standoff. The islands lie about 220km (137 miles) off the coast of the Philippines and fall within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), according to international maritime law.

Videos released by the Philippine coastguard showed Chinese coastguard ships hitting the vessels with powerful blasts of water.

The Philippine task force for the South China Sea, an inter-agency government body, said in a statement that water cannon had been used at least eight times on Saturday, and accused the Chinese coastguard of “directly and deliberately” targeting the vessels.

Three fisheries bureau boats were on a supply mission to provide oil and groceries to more than 30 Filipino fishing vessels near the Scarborough Shoal.

“To prevent the distribution of humanitarian support is not only illegal but also inhuman,” the task force said, as it called for China to stop its “aggressive activities”.

Chinese Maritime Militia vessels were also reported to have engaged in “dangerous manoeuvres” and deployed a long-range acoustic device that resulted in temporary discomfort and incapacitation to some Filipino crew, the task force added.

According to Chinese state media, Beijing said that it took “control measures” against the three vessels in the South China Sea that it claimed had intruded into waters near Scarborough Shoal.

The Philippines and China have a long history of maritime incidents in the contested South China Sea, through which more than $3 trillion of annual ship-borne trade passes annually.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. But the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016 said China’s claims had no legal basis.

Source: News Agencies