February 13, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11129

Increasing Tensions In The South China Sea: Chinese Vessels Block Philippines Ship

February 13, 2024
China | Special Dispatch No. 11129

The English-language Philippines daily Manila Times published on February 12, 2024, an article titled "Chinese Vessels Block PH Ship."[1] The article describes how the Philippine Coast Guard had accused the Chinese of executing, on February 11, dangerous maneuvers around Philippine ships, coming within meters of them, and following them, near the Scarborough Shoal, a disputed territory in the South China Sea that both countries claim and that China seized in 2012.

On February 10, the day before the reported incident, the Chinese Foreign Ministry warned: "Relevant parties in the Philippines need to understand clearly, tread carefully, and don't play with fire on this question to avoid being manipulated and eventually hurt." The Philippines Defense Ministry responded: "China has no business warning the Philippines about what it does within its territory."

China seized the disputed Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

Following is the text of the article published by the Manila Times.

Philippine Coast Guard: Chinese Vessels Executed "Dangerous" Maneuvers Within Meters Of Philippine Ships, "Shadowed" Them

"The Philippine Coast Guard on Sunday accused Chinese vessels of 'dangerous' maneuvers during a nine-day patrol near a reef off the coast of the country. The Philippine vessel BRP Teresa Magbanua was deployed in early February to patrol the waters around Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground in the South China Sea, deliver provisions to Filipino fishermen, and ensure their safety.

"The reef 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 the lagoon where fish are more plentiful.

"During the patrol, China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels 'performed dangerous and blocking maneuvers at sea against BRP Teresa Magbanua four times, with the CCG vessels crossing the bow of the PCG vessel twice,' the Philippine Coast Guard said in a statement.

"The Philippine Coast Guard said its ship was also 'shadowed' [i.e., tracked, followed] by four China Coast Guard vessels 'on more than 40 occasions.' The Coast Guard also observed what it described as 'four Chinese Maritime Militia vessels.' Videos released by the Philippine Coast Guard show a China Coast Guard vessel meters from the port beam of the BRP Teresa Magbanua before it crosses the path of the Filipino boat.

"'Nevertheless, the PCG vessel professionally engaged both the CCG and CMM vessels through radio, reiterating the clear and principled position of the Philippines in accordance with international law,' the statement said. The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Scarborough Shoal, locally known as Bajo de Masinloc, is 240 kilometers (150 miles) west of the Philippines' main island of Luzon and nearly 900 kilometers from the nearest major Chinese land mass of Hainan. The Philippine Coast Guard handed out food and groceries to a hundred Filipino fishermen in 14 boats, the statement said."

Chinese Foreign Ministry: "Relevant Parties In The Philippines Need To Understand Clearly, Tread Carefully, And Don't Play With Fire On This Question To Avoid Being Manipulated And Eventually Hurt"

"The incidents came two months after tense standoffs between China and the Philippines around disputed reefs in the South China Sea that saw a collision between vessels from the two countries and Chinese ships blasting water cannons at Philippine boats.

"China claims almost the entire sea and has ignored an international tribunal ruling that its assertions have no legal basis. It deploys boats to patrol the busy waterway and has built artificial islands that it has militarized to reinforce its claims. Chinese and Philippine officials last month agreed on the need for closer dialogue to deal with 'maritime emergencies' in the waterway as tensions escalated.

"In a related development, the Department of National Defense on Saturday chided China for meddling in Philippine internal affairs after it criticized the country's plans to increase its military presence in Batanes Island fronting Taiwan. 'Relevant parties in the Philippines need to understand clearly, tread carefully, and don't play with fire on this question to avoid being manipulated and eventually hurt,' said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.

"In response, Defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong said 'China has no business warning the Philippines about what it does within its territory.' 'It is the mandate of the Department of National Defense to secure the sovereignty of the State and integrity of the national territory as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution,' Andolong added.

"On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. visited the naval detachment in Navulis at the northern tip of Batanes Island and instructed top military officials to increase troops' presence in the area. Andolong said the government is currently formulating a comprehensive archipelagic defense concept to address territorial defense vulnerabilities.

"He urged China to refrain from engaging in provocative rhetoric if it wants to earn the respect of other countries. 'China's pronouncements and acts are the main reasons for its low credibility with the Filipino people,' Andolong said."


[1], February 12, 2024.

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