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Chinese dangerous maneuvers vs PH vessels troubling, says EU envoy

European Union's top diplomat to Manila on Tuesday expressed serious concern over China's latest dangerous maneuvers against Philippine resupply vessels that resulted in a collision off the disputed South China Sea.

"Troubled by today's pattern of dangerous maneuvers and blocking from Chinese Coast Guard vessels and Maritime Militia targeting Philippine vessels engaged in crucial resupply missions," EU Ambassador Luc Veron said in a statement on X.

A Philippine Coast Guard vessel escorting the rotation and reprovisioning operation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) collided with a bigger Chinese Coast Guard ship Tuesday morning—the first serious incident reported since diplomats from both sides held talks in Shanghai on Jan. 17 in a bid to deescalate tensions in the waters.

Philippine vessels were on their way to the grounded ship BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal to deliver supplies to Navy personnel stationed in the area when the incident happened.

China was quick to defend its actions, saying Philippine vessels trespassed into Chinese territory.

World War II-era vessel BRP Sierra Madre has been at the shoal since 1999 and serves as a Philippine military outpost at the tiny South China Sea feature, also known by its international name, Second Thomas Shoal.

Also known as Second Thomas Shoal, Ayungin is 105.77 nautical miles from the nearest Philippine province of Palawan and constitutes part of the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf as provided under a United Nations convention.

The Philippines decided in 1999 to deploy a permanent station on Ayungin Shoal in response to China's illegal occupation of Panganiban Reef, also known as Mischief Reef, a Philippine territory, in 1995.

"The EU reiterates the call for all parties to abide by the legally binding 2016 Arbitration Award and international law to peacefully resolve disputes, guaranteeing safety in maritime waters," Veron said.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Tuesday said its BRP Sindangan collided with a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel during a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre.

"Throughout the operation, the PCG vessels faced dangerous maneuvers and blocking from Chinese Coast Guard vessels and Chinese Maritime Militia," PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said on X (formerly Twitter).

"Their reckless and illegal actions led to a collision between MRRV-4407 and China Coast Guard 21555 that resulted to minor structural damage to the PCG vessel," he added.

The CCG, meanwhile, said it took control measures against Philippine vessels that illegally intruded into waters adjacent to the Second Thomas Shoal.

A spokesperson for the China Coast Guard issued a statement on what it called the "illegal invasion of Scarborough Shoal by the Philippines," without releasing further details.

China continues to claim ownership over nearly the entire South China Sea despite a 2016 international arbitral ruling that denigrated its massive claim.

Parts of the South China Sea that fall within Philippine territory were renamed by Manila as the West Philippine Sea.

Several collision incidents between the Philippine and Chinese coast guards in the waters have been reported in the past several months, as well as other dangerous actions, such as the pointing of military-grade lasers and water cannon firing by China against Filipinos.

These incidents have sparked concerns among several Asian and Western states, such as the US, European Union, Australia and Japan, which all condemned China's increasingly aggressive actions.

As of February 28, Manila has lodged nine diplomatic protests against China, Foreign Affairs Spokesman Teresita Daza said.

The total number of protests under the Marcos administration from July 2022 to February 28 of this year is 142, she added. — with Reuters/VDV/KBK, GMA Integrated News