MANILA: The Philippines summoned the Chinese ambassador on Monday and flagged the possibility of declaring him persona non grata following two back-to-back incidents between Philippine and Chinese vessels near disputed shoals in the South China Sea.
Manila said the Chinese coast guard and maritime militia fired water cannons at its resupply boats, causing “serious engine damage” to one, while another was “deliberately” rammed, as China’s coast guard accused Philippines’ vessels of “deliberately colliding” with its ship.
The Philippines has lodged a diplomatic protest over the weekend collisions and summoned on Monday China’s ambassador to the Philippines, Huang Xilian, for the fifth time this year.
“The Chinese Ambassador has also been summoned,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Teresita Daza told reporters.
“We note that this is the fourth time this year, with the two incidents happening just over the weekend, that water cannons have been used against Philippines vessels.
“More alarmingly, this is the third incident where dangerous maneuvers by Chinese vessels have resulted in a collision since the Oct. 22 RORE (rotation and resupply) mission.”
The maritime confrontations had occurred in the Second Thomas Shoal and Scarborough Shoal, which are claimed by both the Philippines and China.
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.
“With this case, I think it’s something that will have to be seriously considered whether the incidents or the series of incidents merit having him (Chinese ambassador) be a persona non grata,” Daza said during the press conference.
The chief of staff of the Armed Forces, Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., said he was onboard the Filipino supply boat that was sprayed with a water cannon and rammed on Sunday.
“I was outside at the bow of the ship taking videos when they started firing water cannon at us, so we took shelter … we went inside the ship, and that was the time they bumped us,” Brawner told reporters. “After they bumped and fired water cannon at us, the Chinese Coast Guard cut in front of us several times ... when they got ahead of us, they even reversed course to try to hit us again.”
“I’m angry, because why are we being treated like this in our own exclusive economic zone?” Brawner told Arab News. “Our mission was only to bring supplies (to our troops), why do we need to be harassed?”