Philippines, China in tiff over South China Sea collision

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When the Philippines deploys resupply missions for Filipino soldiers living aboard an ageing warship purposefully run aground in 1999 to protect Manila’s maritime claims, Beijing and Manila have been playing cat and mouse around the Second Thomas Shoal in the country’s exclusive economic zone.

As tensions over claims in the crucial waterway increase, the Philippines and China exchanged accusations on Sunday over a collision of their vessels close to a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

While China’s coast guard said the Philippine vessel deliberately rammed their ship, the Philippine coast guard accused China of firing water cannons and ramming resupply vessels and a coast guard ship, causing “serious engine damage” to one.

A route for over $3 trillion in yearly ship borne trade, the South China Sea is nearly entirely claimed by China, with portions also held by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration declared that China’s claims lacked legal support.

When the Philippines deploys resupply missions for Filipino soldiers living aboard an ageing warship purposefully run aground in 1999 to protect Manila’s maritime claims, Beijing and Manila have been playing cat and mouse around the uninhabited Second Thomas Shoal in the country’s exclusive economic zone.

The shoal is a component of the Spratly Islands, as they are known internationally.

The Philippines charged China on Saturday of engaging in “illegal and aggressive actions” after Beijing justified the use of water cannons against a government fishing vessel run by civilians. Beijing defended the action as “control measures”.

China’s coast guard stated in a statement that two Philippine warships had “illegally entered the waters adjacent to Ren’ai Reef in the Nansha Islands without the approval of the Chinese government” in the incident that happened on Sunday, despite numerous warnings.

A coast guard ship was pulling the Kalayaan back to Palawan province, according to the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea. The coast guard vessel BRP Cabra had “suffered damage to its mast after being directly targeted by the full strength of the water cannon.”

According to a post made on X by the US ambassador to Manila, MaryKay Carlson, China’s “aggression undermines regional stability in defiance of a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

The Atin Ito (“This is ours”) network, a civilian-led organisation that defends the Philippines’ rights in the South China Sea, has arranged a Christmas trip to the region that has drawn some 200 Filipino fisherman, youth leaders, and civil society organisations.

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