4 hurt after China vessels water cannoned PH resupply boat — gov't task force

By JOVILAND RITA,GMA Integrated News

Four people were injured after two China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels water cannoned a Philippine boat on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said on Tuesday.

"The use of water cannons by the CCG vessels shattered the wind shield of Unaizah May 4, causing minor injuries to at least four personnel on board," the NTF-WPS said in a statement.

The injured Filipino personnel were treated by the crew of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel BRP Sindangan, which collided with one of the CCG vessels

less than two hours earlier.

According to the NTF-WPS, China's "unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous maneuvers" against Philippine vessels have put the lives of Filipinos on board at risk and injured them.

"The systematic and consistent manner in which the People's Republic of China carries out these illegal and irresponsible actions puts into question the sincerity of its calls for peaceful dialogue and lessening of tensions," the task force said.

The NTF-WPS reported that CCG vessel 21555 performed dangerous blocking maneuvers against BRP Sindangan that led to a minor collision. The incident was recorded at 6:32 a.m.

The BRP Sindangan sustained "superficial structural damage," the task force said.

At 8:15 a.m., another CCG vessel "caused a minor collision" with Unaizah May 4 "due to its dangerous blocking maneuvers," the task force said.

Two Chinese ships, CCG vessels 21555 and 21551, simultaneously fired water cannons against Unaizah May 4.

Due to the damage and injuries to the vessel and crew, Unaizah May 4 returned to mainland Palawan under escort of BRP Sindangan.

At 9:30 a.m., Unaizah May 1 successfully docked with BRP Sierra Madre and started its resupply. Its mission was completed and left BRP Sierra Madre at 10:45 a.m.

'Not deterred'

The NTF-WPS said, "The Philippines, for its part, continues to act peacefully and responsibly, consistent with international law, particularly UNCLOS and the legally binding 2016 Arbitral Award. Peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regard for the legitimate, well-established, and legally settled rights of others."

"The Philippines will not be deterred from exercising our legal rights over our maritime zones, including Ayungin Shoal which forms part of our Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf. We demand that China demonstrate that it is a responsible and trustworthy member of the international community."

The PCG said its vessels faced dangerous maneuvers and blocking from the China Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militia throughout the resupply mission. PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said on X (formerly Twitter) described China's maneuvers as "reckless and illegal actions."

Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said four Chinese Coast Guard vessels and 11 Chinese maritime militia ships were monitored in the vicinity of the Ayungin Shoal.

Other countries concerned

The United States on Tuesday "strongly condemned" China's harassment and dangerous actions against Philippine vessels delivering supplies to Filipino troops stationed at Ayungin Shoal.

US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson said China's dangerous maneuvers at the shoal "endangered lives, resulted in injuries, and damaged Philippine Coast Guard vessels in the Philippine exclusive economic zone."

"The United States stands with the Philippines and proponents of international law in support of a free abs open Indo-Pacific," Carlson said in a statement on X.

European Union's top diplomat to Manila, meanwhile, expressed serious concern over China's latest dangerous maneuvers against Philippine resupply vessels in WPS.

"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.

For its part, the Japanese embassy in Manila expressed  "grave concern on the repeated dangerous actions" in the South China Sea.

"Japan will continue to stand with the Philippines and cooperate with like-minded countries to maintain the peace and stability in the region," the embassy said.

Australia, currently hosting Southeast Asian leaders for a commemorative summit in Melbourne, also expressed concern about China's latest aggressions.


"Discussing peace and stability at the #ASEAN50Aus Summit. Australia shares Philippines’ concerns about dangerous actions by China’s vessels at Second Thomas Shoal today," Australian Ambassador H.K. Yu said on X.

"We call for restraint and respect for international law, particularly UNCLOS."

CCG's response

The CCG, meanwhile, said it took control measures against Philippine vessels that illegally intruded into waters adjacent to Renai Reef, also known as the Second Thomas Shoal or Ayungin 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.

The CCG statement said the incident happened near waters adjacent to Renai Reef, an area in the South China Sea that has seen numerous run-ins by China's coast guard and Philippine vessels over the past few months.

In a subsequent statement, a CCG spokesperson asserted that the Philippines was responsible for the incident, saying the latter "ignored repeated warnings" from the China side.

"The Philippines broke its promise and sent two coast guard vessels and two cargo ships to trespass into the waters off China's Ren'ai Reef in the South China Sea on Tuesday to send supplies to its warship illegally grounded there," the spokesperson said, adding that the CCG "applied restriction measures according to the law."

'Clear, present challenge'

According to Trinidad, China is a "clear and present challenge" for the Philippine Navy in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

"The situation is not anymore normal. But we are up to the challenge," Trinidad said.

Trinidad enumerated some “not normal” actions by China in the area since the 1990s, including construction of markers, fishermen structures, and reclamations, as well as the militarization of the region.

“From 1992, when they started erecting markers on our shoals, shallow waters, reefs, and features in the WPS. In 1994, they prevented access to Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef). In the late 90s, they started erecting fishermen structures in Mischief Reef. In 2011, they started reclamation. Then they militarize the area,” he said.

PH maritime defense

For his part, Speaker Martin Romualdez assured that the House of Representatives would support measures to build the PCG's capabilities and modernize the Armed Forces amid rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

“I am deeply concerned about this recent development in connection with the territorial dispute between our nation and China. The stability and prosperity of our region rely heavily on the principles of diplomacy and adherence to the rules-based order,” Romualdez said.

“The House of Representatives pledges its full cooperation in the legislative process to ensure the timely implementation of measures to strengthen the Philippine Coast Guard and modernize the Armed Forces to bolster our country's defense posture in the face of emerging challenges,” Romualdez added.

Moreover, Romualdez said the Philippines remains committed to pursuing diplomatic means to address this issue and seeks to foster a relationship with China based on mutual respect and cooperation.

Summoned by DFA

As of Feb. 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.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) summoned China's deputy ambassador to protest the aggressive and dangerous moves undertaken by the China Coast Guard and Chinese Maritime Militia.

In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines said it lodged representations with the DFA where it '"expressed strong protests over the illegal trespassing" on Ayungin Shoal (Ren’ai Jiao) by Philippine vessels.

"The Philippines has once again reneged on its commitments to China, provoked incidents in the waters off the Ren’ai Jiao, and seriously violated China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests," the embassy said. — with reports from Michaela del Callar, Llanesca T. Panti and Reuters/ VDV, GMA Integrated News