MANILA: Philippine officials said on Sunday that Chinese vessels hit a Philippine Coast Guard ship and a military-run supply boat off a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.
China claims the strategic and resource-rich South China Sea almost in its entirety and its military activity in the disputed maritime territory has been increasing, encroaching on the Philippine part of the waters, the West Philippine Sea.
Philippine authorities have recorded China Coast Guard vessels and ships they say are part of the “Chinese maritime militia” within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone on multiple occasions so far this year.
The incident on Sunday morning took place near the disputed Second Thomas Shoal — part of the Spratly Islands off the coast of the Philippines — as Philippine forces were delivering supplies to troops stationed on a World War II-era transport ship, which has been used as an outpost on the shoal.
The Philippine National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said in a statement that “dangerous blocking maneuvers of China Coast Guard vessel 5203 (CCGV 5203) caused it to collide with the Armed Forces of the Philippines-contracted indigenous resupply boat.”
In a second incident near the same shoal, the Philippine Coast Guard vessel’s port side was “bumped by Chinese Maritime Militia vessel,” the task force said.
The China Coast Guard issued a statement blaming the Philippines for the collision, saying the “Philippine vessels approached the Chinese side in an unsafe manner” and were attempting to “illegally deliver construction materials to the illegally grounded warship.”
The Philippines and China have been locked in an ongoing territorial dispute in the resource-rich South China Sea, where other nations also have claims. Manila has filed over 400 diplomatic protests against Beijing since 2020, with three dozen filed so far this year.
In 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague dismissed the expansive Chinese claim of the waters, but Beijing did not recognize the ruling and has in recent years rapidly developed its military presence, including by building artificial island bases in the contested waters.