MANILA: The Philippines summoned on Monday the Chinese ambassador and said it can no longer tolerate China’s “egregious and aggressive behavior” in the disputed South China Sea after two collisions that damaged Philippine vessels over the weekend.
No one was harmed when Chinese vessels hit a Philippine Coast Guard ship and a military-run supply boat near the Second Thomas Shoal — part of the Spratly Islands off the coast of the Philippines — during a resupply mission that took place within the Philippine part of the waters, the West Philippine Sea, Philippine officials said on Sunday.
“Given the more egregious and aggressive behavior that they display … we cannot take this or tolerate this kind of action,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said during a press briefing at the presidential palace in Manila.
“This is a serious escalation of the illegal activities conducted by the Chinese government in the West Philippine Sea in complete disregard of any norm or convention of international law,” he said. “Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian has been summoned today by Secretary Enrique Manalo of the Department of Foreign Affairs to condemn the reckless and illegal act of the Chinese government.”
This marks the fourth time this year that the Chinese envoy has been summoned by the Philippine government over incidents in the South China Sea, as Manila continues to lodge diplomatic protests against China’s aggression in the contested, resource-rich waterway.
Sunday’s incident was taken seriously “at the highest levels of government,” Teodoro said, adding that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has also ordered a probe into the collisions.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entirety of the strategic South China Sea based on its so-called “nine-dash line” stretching over 1,500 km off its mainland and cutting into the exclusive economic zones of several countries, including the Philippines.
In 2016, an international tribunal at The Hague dismissed the expansive Chinese claim, a ruling that Beijing does not recognize as it increased activities in the area in recent years, including developing its military presence by building artificial island bases.
On multiple occasions so far this year, Philippine authorities recorded the presence of China Coast Guard vessels and ships they call “Chinese maritime militia” within Manila’s territory.
Beijing has blamed the Philippines for the collision, as it urged the Southeast Asian country on Monday to “stop making provocations at sea, stop making dangerous moves, stop groundlessly attacking and slandering China,” the Chinese Embassy in Manila said in a statement.