Philippines says Chinese coast guard elevating tensions in South China Sea

May 1, 2024 - 12:17 PM
This frame grab from handout video footage taken and released on April 30, 2024 by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) shows the Philippine Coast Guard ship BRP Bagacay being hit by water cannon from Chinese coast guard vessels near the chinese-controlled Scarborough shoal in disputed waters of the South China Sea. (Philippine Coast Guard video via Jay Tarriela/Twitter)

 The Philippines on Wednesday accused China’s coast guard of elevating tensions in the South China Sea after its use of water cannons that damaged two of its vessels, an official said.

Philippine officials have said a coast guard ship and a fisheries vessel were damaged on Tuesday by water cannons used by the Chinese coast guard while on their way to Scarborough Shoal to assist Filipino fishermen in the area.

“The Chinese coast guard now has elevated the tension and the level of their aggression as well towards the Philippine coast guard vessel,” Commodore Jay Tarriela told a briefing. This is the first time that we can say that the coast guard vessel has been subjected to a direct water canon with that kind of pressure that even resulted in structural damage.”

Tarriela said while China’s water cannon use does not constitute an armed attack yet on its vessel and personnel, China has been increasing the water pressure when targeting its ships.

No country has sovereignty over the strategically located Scarborough Shoal, a prime fishing patch close to major shipping lanes that is used by several countries. The shoal falls inside the Philippines‘ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and has been a constant source of flashpoint between it and China.

China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual ship-borne commerce, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

An international tribunal in 2016 said China’s expansive claim had no legal basis, a decision Beijing has rejected.

—Reporting by Mikhail Flores; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Lincoln Feast