Philippines alleges China damaged vessel in South China Sea disputed shoal

Manila says its coastguard ship was damaged after being hit by water cannon; Beijing says it ‘expelled’ Philippine boats.

The Philippines has accused China of “dangerous maneuvers and obstruction” and reinstalling a barrier at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing blockaded and seized from Manila in 2012.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesman Jay Tarriela said two Philippine vessels on maritime patrol encountered four China Coast Guard (CCG) ships and six vessels from its maritime militia in the area on Monday morning.

One of the ships was struck by water cannon from one of the CCG ships about 12 nautical miles (22km) from the shoal, while the other – a PCG vessel – was hit by water cannon fired from two of the CCG ships when it was about 1,000 yards (914 metres) away from the shoal, which the Philippines calls Bajo de Masinloc.

Writing on social media platform X, Tarriela said the ship’s railing and canopy were damaged.

A video accompanying the post showed water cannon hitting the port side of the boat as well as the starboard side closer to the bow.

“This damage serves as evidence of the forceful water pressure used by the China Coast Guard in their harassment of the Philippine vessels,” he wrote.

On Tuesday, Beijing claimed it had “expelled” Philippine vessels from the area, a traditional fishing ground that also provides shelter in stormy weather.

Tarriela said China had also reinstalled a barrier about 415 yards (380 metres) long across the entrance to the shoal, which lies about 220km (137 miles) off the coast of the Philippines and within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an EEZ extends some 200 nautical miles (about 370km) from a country’s coast.

China first installed the barrier last year, but the Philippines removed it in September saying it breached international maritime law.

The Philippines and China have been involved in multiple incidents in and around the disputed reef in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety under a nine-dash line that an international tribunal ruled in 2016 to be without merit.

Manila took its case to the tribunal after China seized Scarborough Shoal more than a decade ago.

China has ignored the ruling and continued to press its claim.

Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam also claim the parts of the sea around their coasts.

Source: Al Jazeera