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Chinese coast guard fires water cannon at BFAR vessel headed to Scarborough Shoal

The Chinese Coast Guard on Saturday fired water canons at the vessels of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Scarborough Shoal. 

China's Coast Guard on Saturday fired a water cannon at the vessels of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) headed to Scarborough Shoal. 

According to Jun Veneracion's report on Super Radyo dzBB, the BFAR vessels were on a mission to distribute oil and other supplies to fisherfolk in the area. 

The firing of water cannon started at around 9 a.m. and is still ongoing as of 12 noon. 

According to the report, the Chinese Coast Guard initially held back from firing but soon pointed the water cannon directly at the Philippine vessels.

The Chinese coast guard boats were also reportedly backed by Chinese militia vessels which also approached the BFAR vessels.




BFAR officials onboard the vessel said that it was the first time the Chinese coast guard directly fired a water cannon at their vessel. They added that previously they were just being "shadowed" by Chinese vessels during resupply missions. 


Prior to the encounter, the Chinese Coast Guard issued warnings to the Philippine vessels to depart the area, claiming that the Scarborough Shoal is Chinese territory.

The Philippine vessels however ignored the warnings, insisting on country’s rights over its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Illegal and Aggressive

The National Task Force West Philippine Sea (NTFWPS) has condemned China's aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

“The National Task Force West Philippine Sea (NTFWPS) vehemently condemns the illegal and aggressive actions carried out by the Chinese Coast Guard and Chinese Maritime Militia against the civilian Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessels Datu Sanday, Datu Bankaw, and Datu Tamblot today during a regular BFAR humanitarian and support mission of providing oil subsidy and grocery packs to over 30 Filipino fishing vessels near Bajo De Masinloc in the West Philippine Sea,” it said in a statement.

According to reports received by the NTFWPS, the BFAR vessels have approached 1.4 to 1.9 nautical miles from Bajo de Masinloc when the Chinese Coast Guard ships fired water cannons to prevent them from approaching the Filipino fishing vessels.

The NTFWPS said the water cannons were used at least eight (8) times at the time of their reporting.

Further, the Chinese Maritime Militia vessels reportedly engaged in “dangerous” maneuvers and deployed what seemed to be a Long-range Acoustic Device (LRAD) against the BFAR vessels.

Aside from allegedly causing severe temporary discomfort and incapacitation to some Filipino crew, the water cannon incident also significantly damaged Datu Tamblot’s communication and navigation equipment, the NTFWPS said.

The task force also denounced the deployment of Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) to disperse and drive away Filipino fishing vessels that waited the distribution of fuel subsidies and food supplies from the BFAR ships.

“To prevent the distribution of humanitarian support is not only illegal but also inhumane,” the NTFWPS said.

“China’s illegal exercise of maritime law enforcement powers, interference with Philippine vessels, harassment and intimidation of Filipino fisherfolk, or any other activity that infringes upon the Philippines’ sovereignty and jurisdiction in Bajo de Masinloc are violations of international law, particularly UNCLOS and the Arbitral Award,” it said.

“We firmly insist that these Chinese vessels leave Bajo de Masinloc immediately,” the NTFWPS said.

“We demand that the Chinese government take immediate action to halt these aggressive activities and uphold the principles of international law and desist from actions that would infringe on Philippine Sovereignty and endanger the lives and livelihood of Filipino fishermen who have traditionally fished in the area.”

China's claim

The Chinese Embassy in Manila, meanwhile, insisted that China had "indisputable sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao, consisting of Dongsha Qundao, Xisha Qundao, Zhongsha Qundao and Nansha Qundao, and their adjacent waters, and had sovereign rights and jurisdiction over relevant waters.

"For some time, the Philippines has been sending people to Tiexian Jiao and other uninhabited islands and reefs of China’s Nansha Islands and sending aircraft and vessels to intrude into adjacent waters and airspace of China’s Nansha Islands and Huangyan Dao," the embassy said in it's Saturday statement.

"These moves severely violate China’s sovereignty, endanger China’s security, go against the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and undermine peace and stability in the South China Sea. China has made serious démarches for nearly 100 times and officially expressed our protest to the Philippines."

The statement concluded with a call for the Philippines to stop hyping up maritime disputes between China and the Philippines, stop infringement of China’s sovereignty and provocation at sea, return to the right track of resolving maritime disputes through negotiation and consultation.

Scarborough Shoal

This is not the first time that the Chinese Coast Guard drove away Philippine vessels around the Scarborough Shoal.

Last October, it also drove away a Philippine Navy vessel and controlled its route after it allegedly ignored repeated dissuasion and warnings from the Chinese side.

China claims it has "indisputable sovereignty" over the Scarborough Shoal, which it calls Huangyan Island, and the adjacent waters.

After the 2012 standoff between the Philippine and China in Scarborough Shoal, Chinese vessels guarded the lagoon and Filipino ships and fishing boats could not enter the area.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) however said the Chinese report was not true, adding that it was a propaganda.

In November, a Chinese coast guard also fired a water cannon at a boat carrying provisions to Filipino troops in Ayungin Shoal.

The Philippines has already filed a diplomatic protest over that incident.

An arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea in 2016. It said that no country can claim sovereign rights over the shoal, saying it is a traditional fishing ground for Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen.

China has refused to recognize the ruling. —With a report by Jamil Santos/VAL, GMA Integrated News