China hits PH boats anew with water cannon blasts

China hits PH boats anew with water cannon blasts

By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 05:50 AM May 01, 2024

China hits PH boats anew with water cannon blasts

‘NOT ONLY SHOCKING BUT APPALLING’ A frame grab from video footage released by the Philippine Coast Guard shows its ship, the BRP Bagacay, being hit by water cannon from Chinese coast guard vessels near the Chinese-controlled Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. Also hit on its way to the shoal was the BRP Bankaw of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MANILA, Philippines — For the seventh time since August last year, China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels used water cannons in an attempt to block two Philippine civilian vessels in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal, or Bajo de Masinloc, in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on Tuesday.

It was China’s latest act of aggression against Filipinos in the WPS, reescalating maritime and diplomatic tensions between Manila and Beijing, and carried out by the CCG at a time when American forces are in the country for the annual “Balikatan” exercises with Philippine troops.


READ: US airs support for PH after water cannon attack, tells China to heed ruling


Commodore Jay Tarriela, the PCG spokesperson for the WPS, said the two civilian vessels—the BRP Bagacay of the PCG and the BRP Bankaw of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)—were harassed by the CCG in separate locations en route to Scarborough.

The PCG boat was on patrol while the BFAR was on its way to deliver food and fuel to Filipino fishermen plying the shoal.

At 9:53 a.m., a CCG vessel with bow No. 3305 trained its water cannon on the BRP Bankaw some 12 nautical miles from the shoal, Tarriela said in a statement.

Two other CCG vessels, with bow Nos. 3105 and 5303, made a similar attack on Bagacay at about 1000 yards from Scarborough, “resulting in damage to the railing and canopy” of the ship, he added.

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

They ‘stood their ground’

In all, the PCG and BFAR missions encountered “dangerous maneuvers and obstruction” from four CCG and six Chinese maritime militia vessels.


“Despite the harassment and provocative actions of the Chinese coast guard, both the PCG and BFAR vessels stood their ground and continued their maritime patrol,” Tariela said.

A GMA News drone footage of the attack on the Bagacay showed that, for a sustained period, the harassing CCG vessel was aiming its jet of water at the Philippine flag hoisted on the PCG ship.

NSC: ‘Shocking, appalling’

In a statement on Tuesday night, the National Security Council (NSC) said China’s latest obstruction of a Philippine “humanitarian mission” to assist fishermen at Scarborough was “not only shocking but appalling.”

The NSC said the Bankaw was hit with “targeted high-pressure water cannoning” at least eight times, and was also rammed three times by both CCG and Chinese maritime militia ships.

The vessel, according to the NSC, sustained damage to its hull and its electrical, navigation, and radio systems.

As of 7 p.m. on Tuesday, the NSC said the PCG and BFAR vessels had regrouped about 37 kilometers (20 nautical miles) from Scarborough to assess their damage.

“These latest demonstrations of China’s illegal and irresponsible behavior highlight their egregious disregard for the Philippines’ lawful exercise of its rights and entitlements in our own exclusive economic zone,” the NSC said.

The incidents, the NSC added, showed that China “has no regard for the welfare of our fishermen who only want to make a decent living” in the WPS.

Jay Tarriela —RICHARD A. REYES

Commodore Jay Tarriela RICHARD A. REYES

“China’s act of obstructing civilian ships carrying only supplies for our fishermen calls into question the sincerity of their call of dialogue and peaceful approaches to deescalate the situation in the West Philippine Sea,” it said.

According to the NSC, peace and stability in the region could not be achieved “if countries, big or small, do not exercise due regard for the well-established and legally settled rights of others.”

Despite the increasing incidents of harassment from China, the council said, the Philippines would “not be deterred from pursuing legitimate and lawful activities” in the country’s maritime zones, including Scarborough.

Floating barrier back

According to the PCG official, the CCG has again installed a floating barrier about 380 meters long to block the entry point to the shoal.

The barrier restricted access to the area which is recognized as a traditional fishing ground for Filipinos in the 2016 arbitral ruling that voided Beijing’s claim over much of the South China Sea, including the country’s exclusive economic zone.

The Philippines found a floating barrier across the entrance to the shoal during a similar mission in September. PCG personnel then cut a rope tethering the barrier to an anchor, allowing it to drift, in a special operation ordered by President Marcos.

The CCG later removed the line of buoys from the water.

Seized in 2012

China seized the shoal after a standoff with the Philippine Navy in 2012 and has since deployed coast guard and other vessels that Manila says harass Philippine ships and prevent its fishermen from accessing the fish-rich lagoon.

Tuesday’s incident came as the Philippines and the United States hold a major annual military exercise that has infuriated Beijing.

Manila and Beijing have a long history of territorial disputes in the South China Sea, with several collisions involving Filipino and Chinese vessels in recent months, as well as the use of water cannon by the China Coast Guard.

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

The triangular chain of reefs and rocks that make up Scarborough Shoal lies 240 km (150 miles) west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and nearly 900 km from Hainan, the nearest major Chinese land mass.

Marcos has stood up to China’s growing assertiveness in the waterway since taking office in 2022, insisting the Philippines “will not yield” as it defends its sovereign territory.

Previous attacks

Two CCG water cannon attacks were reported on March 5 and March 23 this year, where a total of seven Philippine Navy personnel were wounded. Both involved Philippine boats on their way to resupply troops manning the grounded BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

In 2023, Philippine vessels came under similar attacks four times—on Aug. 5, Nov. 10, Dec. 9 and Dec. 10.

In its version of Tuesday’s incident, China said its coast guard vessels “expelled Philippine coast guard ship 4410 and government ship 3004 after they intruded into the waters adjacent to Huangyan Island,” the Chinese name for Scarborough.

China also urged the Philippines to stop provocations and to not challenge China’s determination to safeguard its sovereignty, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said.

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“Philippine ships intruded without China’s permission and the Chinese coast guard took necessary measures to drive them away,” said Chinese ministry spokesperson Lin Jian, who was addressing a query on the matter. —WITH REPORTS FROM AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS AND INQUIRER RESEARCH

TAGS: BFAR, CCG, PCG, water cannon blast, WPS

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