PCG: China used water cannons that could kill

PCG: China used water cannons that could kill

By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 05:30 AM May 02, 2024

PCG: China used water cannons that could kill

IT WAS THAT STRONG A railing bent out of shape on the BRP Bagacay of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) shows the force of the water cannon blast coming from the China Coast Guard vessel that harassed it on Tuesday. PHOTO COURTESY OF PCG

MANILA, Philippines — China Coast Guard (CCG) ships for the first time fired potentially deadly high-pressure water cannons on two government vessels which were sailing to Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) to deliver aid to Filipino fishermen this week, a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) official said on Wednesday.

The “jet stream pressure” used in the water cannon attacks was so strong that it broke a steel railing and deformed the frame of a canopy on the PCG’s BRP Bagacay, said Commodore Jay Tarriela, the PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea.


READ: China water cannons 2 PH vessels in Scarborough Shoal anew


The latest water cannon attacks by China Coast Guard (CCG) ships against Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) while Manila and Washington carried out their large-scale military exercises called “Balikatan” were intended by Beijing to test their alliance, according to maritime security experts.

It also damaged the heating and ventilation and the air conditioning, electrical, navigation and radio systems of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel BRP Bankaw, he said.

None of the Filipino vessels’ crew and the Filipino and foreign journalists traveling with them were wounded in the attacks on Tuesday.

According to SeaLight of Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation, a 220-pound per square inch (PSI) blast from a shipborne water cannon could easily knock down ship personnel and “send them crashing into steel bulkheads or overboard into the sea.”

“Well, if we are going to look at how it bent the railing of the Philippine Coast Guard vessels because of the water cannon, obviously that would be very fatal,” Tarriela said at a press briefing in Manila.

A GMA News reporter on the Bagacay said that the CCG water cannon blast was “so strong, you could really feel the shaking of the pilot house” where he and others took shelter.


“This is the first time that the coast guard vessel has been subject to a direct water cannon with that kind of pressure that even resulted in structural damage,” Tarriela said.

“It just goes to show that Goliath is becoming more Goliath. They don’t hesitate to use brute force to violate international law,” he added.

Tarriela said it was “still not an armed attack” as only water cannons were used by the Chinese.

“The only difference is perhaps they are increasing the PSI, the pressure of the water, but as far as the Coast Guard is concerned, this is still not an armed attack,” he added.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. earlier said that the Philippines could invoke the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) if a Filipino sailor or a member of the military is killed in the South China Sea, which includes the West Philippine Sea.

Under the MDT signed in 1951, the Philippines and the United States agreed to come to each other’s aid in case of an armed attack on a public vessel, troops or an airship in those waters.

Washington has pledged its “ironclad commitment” to defending its treaty ally against an armed attack on Filipino military and public vessels, including coast guard ships, anywhere in the South China Sea.

PH flag targeted

A spokesperson for China’s embassy in Manila said Scarborough, which Beijing calls Huangyan Dao, “has always been China’s territory” and urged the Philippines to “stop making infringement and provocations at once and not to challenge China’s resolve to defend our sovereignty,” according to a Reuters report.

With the latest water cannon attacks, Tarriela said China “has elevated the tension and the level of their aggression as well towards the Philippine Coast Guard vessel.”

A GMA News drone footage of the attack on the Bagacay and another video released by the PCG showed that the CCG vessel was aiming jets of water at the Philippine flag on the PCG ship.

PCG and military officials did not immediately respond to the Inquirer’s request for comment on this Chinese action.

Humanitarian mission

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Beijing’s nine-dash-line claim was invalidated by an arbitral tribunal in 2016, which upheld Manila’s sovereign rights to its EEZ.

China rejected the award and continues to deploy scores of maritime militia, CCG and naval vessels to block Philippine government ships transporting supplies to its military outposts and Filipino fishing boats.

As of Wednesday, the BRP Bagacay and BRP Bankaw proceeded with their “humanitarian mission” and were still at Scarborough, also known as Panatag Shoal, to deliver food and fuel to Filipino fishermen at the shoal, an age-old fishing ground.

No country has sovereignty over Scarborough, which is close to major shipping lanes that are used by several countries. The shoal is well-within the Philippines’ EEZ and has been a constant source of flashpoint between Manila and Beijing.

Int’l condemnation

At least a dozen countries and the European Union (EU) expressed concern or condemnation of the Chinese actions and called on Beijing to respect international law and 2016 award under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

As of Wednesday, the envoys or embassies of the United States, EU, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany have spoken out on China’s latest dangerous maneuvers against Philippine vessels.

US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson called out China for using “dangerous maneuvers and water cannons to disrupt a lawful Philippine mission” within its EEZ.

“The Philippines can count on US support as #FriendsPartnersAllies to uphold freedom of navigation and international law,” she said.

EU Ambassador Luc Véron said any aggressive behavior, including the use of water cannon and floating barriers, was “a threat to safety of life at sea, the freedom of navigation, and the prohibition of the use of force or coercion.”

“In short, this is against international law,” the EU envoy said.

Japan’s Ambassador Endo Kazuya said the use of water cannon against the Philippine Coast Guard and BFAR vessels “undermines the safety of ship and crew.”

Australia’s Ambassador Hae Kyong Yu said China’s dangerous maneuvers “create risks of miscalculation and endanger peace. Disputes must be resolved peacefully under Unclos.”

Force not a solution

Denmark’s Ambassador Franz-Michael Mellbin and the New Zealand Embassy said they were “deeply concerned,” and Canada’s Ambassador David Hartman cited the “coercive actions” by the Chinese against Philippine vessels.

The South Korea Embassy and the Embassy of France also said they were “concerned” about China’s actions.

“We oppose any threat or use of force contrary to international law and recall the importance of resolving disputes through dialogue. We also recall the decision rendered by the Arbitral Court on July 12, 2016,” said the French Embassy.

The Netherlands’ Ambassador Marielle Geraedts said China’s actions were “not in line with international law.”

The United Kingdom’s Ambassador Laure Beaufils said the UK “condemns” China’s dangerous actions and stressed that the 2016 arbitral award was legally binding on the parties.

The Embassy of Sweden called for “full respect” of the UN Charter, Unclos and the arbitration award.

The Embassy of Germany also called for respect for Unclos and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

“Use of force is never the solution! International law must prevail!,” said German Ambassador Andreas Michael Pfaffernoschke in a statement.

Seven times

Since August last year, the CCG has used water cannons against Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea at least seven times, escalating the maritime tension between Manila and Beijing.

In March this year, seven Navy personnel were wounded in two separate water cannon attacks by CCG ships against Philippine supply boats on their way to the troops manning the BRP Sierra Madre, which is being used as an outpost, at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

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

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In February of the same year, 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. —WITH REPORTS FROM DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN AND REUTERS

TAGS: BFAR, Jay Tarriela, PCG

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