Philippines files protest to China over use of laser, ‘aggressive activities’ by vessels

February 14, 2023 - 1:07 PM
China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel 5205 directed a military-grade laser light at BRP Malapascua, which was on a rotation and resupply mission to assist the Philippine Navy posted in Ayungin Shoal on February 6, 2023. (Philippine Coast Guard/Facebook)

The Philippines on Tuesday filed a diplomatic protest calling on Beijing to ensure its vessels cease “aggressive activities” after Manila accused China’s coast guard of trying to block one of its ships in the South China Sea using a laser.

The Philippine coast guard said on Monday a Chinese coast guard ship directed a “military-grade laser” at one of Manila’s vessels supporting a resupply mission to troops in the disputed waterway on Feb. 6, temporarily blinding its crew on the bridge.

READ: China says coast guard’s actions were lawful in South China Sea row

“These acts of aggression by China are disturbing and disappointing as it closely follows the state visit to China of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in early January during which he and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to manage maritime differences through diplomacy and dialogue,” Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Teresita Daza said in a statement on Tuesday.

The ministry said the Chinese vessel undertook dangerous manoeuvres by approaching at a close distance the Philippine vessel, risking a collision that endangered the crew, and issuing “illegal radio challenges” demanding the Philippine ship leave the area.

The actions of China’s coast guard vessel were a threat to Philippine sovereignty and security andthe country had a prerogative to conduct legitimate activities within its exclusive economic zone, the ministry said.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese embassy in Manila, but China’s foreign ministry said on Monday that its coast guard had conducted actions according to the law.

“We urge the Philippines to avoid such actions, and the actions of China’s staff are professional and restrained,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, told a regular briefing.

The Philippine coast guard was supporting a navy mission to deliver food and supplies to troops on the Second Thomas Shoal, 105 nautical miles (195 km) off the Philippine province of Palawan.

Locally known as Ayungin, the shoal is home to a small Philippine military contingent on board a World War Two ship which was intentionally grounded on the shoal in 1999 to reinforce Manila’s sovereignty claims in the Spratly archipelago.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including the area around the Spratly islands.

The Philippines has filed 203 diplomatic notes against China since last year, foreign ministry data showed.

—Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema; Editing by Ed Davies

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