Philippines summons China envoy over water cannon attack in South China Sea

The Philippines has protested against China’s ‘dangerous manoeuvres’ 20 times this year as tensions escalate over the disputed shoal.

A Chinese coastguard ship firing water cannon at a Philippines coast guard ship
The Philippines said the the pressure in Tuesday's water cannon incident was far more powerful than anything previously used [Philippines Coast Guard via EPA]

The Philippines has summoned a Chinese diplomat, accusing Beijing of “harassment” and “dangerous manoeuvres” after its use of water cannon against two Philippine vessels during a patrol in the South China Sea.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called in China’s deputy chief of mission Zhou Zhiyong on Thursday, two days after the incident at a disputed shoal that left a Philippine coastguard vessel and another government boat damaged.

It was the 20th protest by the Philippines against the conduct of China’s coastguard and fishing vessels this year, the ministry said. It has made 153 complaints over the past two years.

“The Philippines protested the harassment, ramming, swarming, shadowing and blocking, dangerous manoeuvres, use of water cannons, and other aggressive actions of [the] China Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militia,” the ministry said in a statement.

China seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 2012 after a months-long standoff.

The Philippines said the pressure in Tuesday’s water cannon incident was far more powerful than anything previously used, and that it tore or bent metal sections and equipment on the Philippine vessels.

Tensions have escalated over the Scarborough Shoal recently as the Philippines takes a more assertive approach in disputed areas while strengthening alliances with the United States and Japan.

A traditional fishing ground used by several countries and close to major shipping lanes, the shoal 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.

The triangular grouping of reefs and rocks is nearly 900 kilometres (559 miles) from the island of Hainan, the nearest major Chinese land mass.

China’s embassy in Manila claimed on Wednesday Scarborough Shoal had always been China’s territory and urged the Philippines to cease infringements and provocations and not “challenge China’s resolve to defend our sovereignty”.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, brushing off rival claims from other countries, including the Philippines, and an international ruling that its assertions have no legal basis.

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

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies