No letup in Chinese water cannon attacks

No letup in Chinese water cannon attacks

By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 05:30 AM March 24, 2024

No letup in Chinese water cannon attacks

UM4 TAKES ANOTHER HIT A frame grab from handout aerial video footage taken and released on March 23 by the Armed Forces of the Philippines shows China Coast Guard ships (left and right) deploying water cannons against the Philippine military-chartered civilian boat Unaizah May 4 (UM 4) during its supply mission near the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in disputed waters of the South China Sea. —AFP

A Philippine supply boat on its way to Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal sustained “heavy damage” while the Navy personnel onboard suffered injuries from water cannon blasts coming from two China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels early Saturday morning, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said.

It was the latest assault involving the use of water cannons by the Chinese in an attempt to restrict passage in the West Philippine Sea, likely raising tensions again in the disputed waters and ruffling diplomatic relations between Manila and Beijing.

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In a statement, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said China’s “latest acts of unprovoked aggression, coercion and dangerous maneuvers against a legitimate (resupply mission) once again placed at risk, caused severe damage to property and cause physical harm to Filipinos.”

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Same boat hit

China’s “systematic and consistent manner” in carrying out “these illegal and irresponsible actions belies its hollow claims to peace, dialogue and adherence to international law,” it added.

“We demand that China demonstrate in deeds and not in words that it is a responsible and trustworthy member of the international community,” it said.

READ: China Coast Guard fires water cannon at PH ship again

The AFP on Saturday said the wooden supply boat Unaizah May 4 (UM 4) sustained heavy damage “due to the continued blasting of water cannons” from two CCG vessels at 8:52 a.m.

The UM 4 was the same vessel damaged in a similar attack by a CCG ship earlier this month.

At 7:59 a.m., a CCG vessel started training its water cannon on UM 4, “deliberately targeting and hitting the supply boat,” the AFP said.

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Thirty minutes later, two CCG vessels subjected the supply boat to “direct water cannoning” near Ayungin, where the BRP Sierra Madre has been deliberately grounded since 1999 to serve as a Philippine military outpost.

Earlier around 6 a.m., the AFP said, the CCG vessel with bow number (BN) 21551 made a “dangerous maneuver of crossing the bow” of UM 4.About an hour later, at 7:09 a.m., the CCG vessel made a “reverse blocking maneuver” against the Filipino craft as the latter approached Ayungin, “causing near collision.”

‘Isolated’

Minutes later, the Philippine Coast Guard’s (PCG) BRP Cabra, who was escorting the supply ship, was also “impeded and encircled” by a CCG vessel with BN 21551 and two Chinese maritime militia vessels with BN 00036 and 00314, according to Commodore Jay Tarriela, the PCG spokesperson on the WPS.According to Tarriela, the BRP Cabra was “isolated from the resupply boat due to irresponsible and provocative behavior” of the Chinese ships.

Their actions, he said, were made in disregard of the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (Colregs).

But the military said the BRP Cabra eventually managed to maneuver and reach UM 4 to “provide assistance.”

Tarriela declined to detail the extent of the damage on the UM 4 and the injuries sustained by the Filipinos onboard.

The AFP also reported that the Chinese maritime militia vessels, assisted by rigid hull inflatable boats, “deployed and installed floating barriers to prevent further entry of any vessels in the shoal.”

Cargo still delivered

Despite the harassment, the military said, Philippine Navy personnel were able to bring the supplies to the Filipino troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre around noon. They transferred cargo from the UM 4 and the BRP Cabra and completed the trip to BRP Sierra Madre on rigid hull inflatable boats.

Saturday’s water cannon attack happened two days after a CCG vessel also made “dangerous maneuvers” and tried to block a Philippine vessel carrying marine scientists conducting research in Pag-asa Island, also in the West Philippine Sea.

The NTF-WPS said the Philippine government would not be deterred” by veiled threats or hostility” from exercising its legal rights over its maritime zone, including Ayungin.

Ayungin is an underwater feature about 195 kilometers off Palawan province, well within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

‘Sheer brutality’

US maritime expert Ray Powell, who heads Project Myoushu (South China Sea) at the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation at Stanford University, described the CCG’s use of water cannon on the UM 4 as “sheer brutality.”

Philippine resupply boats bound for Ayungin came under similar attacks from the Chinese on Dec. 10 and Nov. 10 last year.

In February 2023, a CCG vessel pointed a military-grade laser at a PCG patrol ship on its way to Ayungin, causing temporary blindness among some of the crew members.

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On March 5 this year, a collision between the UM 4 and a Chinese ship injured Western Command chief Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos and four Navy personnel who were onboard.

For comprehensive coverage, in-depth analysis, and the latest updates on the West Philippine Sea issue, visit our special site here. Stay informed with articles, videos, and expert opinions.

TAGS: China, water cannon, West Philippine Sea

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