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China says it 'lawfully' blocked Philippine ships going to disputed shoal


China Coast Guard blocks PH vessels

BEIJING - China Coast Guard said on Sunday it "lawfully" blocked Philippine vessels transporting "illegal construction materials" to a warship at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

"On October 22, a Philippine ship trespassed into the waters adjacent to Ren'ai Reef in China's Nansha Islands," the CCG said, referring to Ayungin Shoal in the Spratly Islands.

"The Chinese coast guard ship intercepted the trespassing Philippine ship in accordance with the law even though multiple warnings were ineffective," it added.

"At 6:14, the Philippine yacht 'Yunaza May' No. 2, despite my prior warnings, ignored my multiple clear warnings and deliberately passed through my normal law enforcement navigation in an unprofessional and dangerous manner. The bow of the 5203 ship caused a slight collision," the CCG said.

"At 8:13, the Philippine Coast Guard vessel 4409 deliberately provoked trouble and reversed on its own initiative. The rear of the vessel collided with the starboard side of my parked and drifting Qiongsansha Fishing vessel 00003. The malicious collision caused an incident and heated up the situation at the scene," it added.

"The Philippines' actions seriously violated the international rules for avoiding collisions at sea and threatened the navigation safety of our ships. Our operations were professional, standardized, legitimate and legal, and the responsibility lies entirely with the Philippines," the statement read.

For its part, the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the Philippines said the responsibility for the collision laid entirely on the Philippine side.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands including the Ren'ai Reef and their adjacent waters," said the embassy in a statement. "The Philippines' actions infringes upon China's territorial sovereignty, violates the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and breaks its own promises."

The embassy added that the CCG would continue to carry out law enforcement activities in the waters under China's jurisdiction.

NTF-WPS

The collision incident occurred at 6:04 a.m. on Sunday, according to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS).

The task force said a CCG vessel collided with an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-contracted boat going to the Ayungin Shoal for a resupply mission.

NTF-WPS said the “dangerous blocking maneuvers” of China Coast Guard vessel 5203 (CCGV 5203) caused the collision with the AFP-contracted indigenous resupply boat Unaiza May 2 (UM2) approximately 13.5 nautical miles east northeast of the BRP Sierra Madre.

The UM2 was conducting a regular and routine rotation and resupply (RORE) mission to BRP Sierra Madre which has been grounded at the Ayungin Shoal since 1999.

During the same RORE mission, the NTF-WPS said Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel MRRV 4409’s port side was also “bumped” by Chinese maritime militia vessel 00003 (CMMV 00003) while it was lying to approximately 6.4NM northeast of Ayungin Shoal.

Over the past few months, China and the Philippines have had numerous run-ins in areas of the South China Sea, most notable the disputed Second Thomas Shoal (known as Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines), part of the Spratly Islands.

The Philippines has been sending supplies to troops stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre, a World War Two-era, transport-ship-turned-military outpost on the shoal, prompting the China Coast Guard to repeatedly deploy vessels to block the resupply missions.

Ayungin Shoal sits just 194 kilometers off Palawan province and is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It is where the BRP Sierra Madre is anchored since 1999.

Last week, the Philippine military demanded China stop its "dangerous and offensive" actions, after a Chinese navy ship shadowed and attempted to cut off a Philippine Navy vessel conducting a resupply mission to the Rizal Reef Station.

China had warned the Philippines against further "provocations", saying such acts violated its territorial sovereignty.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, pointing to a dotted line on its maps that cuts into the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 said China's claims had no legal basis.

China however has refused to recognize the ruling of PCA. —With a report from Giselle Ombay/Reuters/KG, GMA Integrated News

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