Manila [Philippines], September 23 (ANI): In a recent development, the Philippines has accused Chinese vessels of engaging in what they describe as “dangerous manoeuvres” within the disputed South China Sea region. This incident is the latest in a series of maritime tensions between the two neighbouring nations, CNN reported.
The Philippine Coast Guard on Friday reported that while conducting a routine rotation and resupply mission near Ayungin Shoal, also known as Ren’ai Reef in China, they encountered eight Chinese boats. According to the Philippine Coast Guard, these Chinese vessels posed a threat to the safety of their crew members, although specific details of the incident were not disclosed. The encounter involved four Chinese coast guard vessels and four Chinese “maritime militia” boats.
This incident follows closely on the heels of a prior dispute in which the Philippines accused Chinese coast guard ships of using water cannons against their vessels during an attempt to resupply troops stationed at the same shoal in the Spratly Islands, referred to as the Nansha Islands in China.
Western experts specialising in maritime security believe that Beijing maintains a maritime militia consisting of hundreds of vessels, which serves as an unofficial and officially deniable force to advance its territorial claims in the South China Sea and other areas. The Philippines asserts that this militia played a role in both recent incidents at Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal), a location with historical territorial disputes, as reported by CNN.
It’s worth noting that China has not officially acknowledged the existence of such a militia force. In response to the most recent incident, the Philippine coastguard has reached out to its Chinese counterpart, urging them to cease any illegal activities within Philippine maritime zones.
China asserts “indisputable sovereignty” over a vast portion of the South China Sea, encompassing the Spratly Islands, an archipelago with territorial claims or partial claims by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. The Philippines refers to part of this area as the West Philippine Sea.
In 1999, the Philippines intentionally grounded a navy transport ship, the BRP Sierra Madre, on Second Thomas Shoal, which was manned by Filipino marines, as a demonstration of their claim to the area. In contrast, China maintains its sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, including Ren’ai Reef, and its adjacent waters, while opposing what they view as unauthorized actions by the Philippines.
It’s important to mention that the Philippines’ territorial claims are supported by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, which ruled in 2016 that China lacked a legal basis for asserting historic rights over the majority of the South China Sea. However, Beijing has disregarded this ruling, contending that the Philippines had promised to remove the vessel in question. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has stated that his government never made such a commitment, CNN reported. (ANI)
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