The Philippines has accused a China Coast Guard vessel of “reckless manoeuvres” that led to a collision with a wooden boat contracted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to deliver provisions to troops on the BRP Sierra Madre.
China said the “slight collision” happened after the resupply boat ignored “multiple warnings and deliberately passed through law enforcement in an unprofessional and dangerous manner”, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Sunday, citing the foreign ministry.
On Monday, China’s embassy in Manila said it had lodged stern representations to the Philippines over the “trespassing” of its vessels at the shoal.
A Chinese diplomat met with a Philippine official Monday and “made solemn representations… on the trespassing of the Philippine vessels into the Ren’ai Reef area … expressing strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to the trespassing,” the embassy said, using China’s name for the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands.
In another incident, a Philippine coastguard vessel escorting the routine resupply mission was “bumped” by what the Philippine task force described as a “Chinese Maritime Militia vessel”.
China, however, accused the Philippine boat of “deliberately” stirring up trouble by reversing in a “premeditated manner” into a Chinese fishing vessel.
The Philippine Coast Guard has yet to evaluate the extent of damage to the supply boat’s hull, but its spokesperson, Jay Tarriela said in the same news conference that it was “deep” and “more than a scratch”.
Malaya accused China of “increasing tensions” in the South China Sea and maintained it was China’s actions that caused Sunday’s collision.
“We are relieved and thankful that no Filipino personnel were harmed. But we are concerned by the escalation and provocations by Chinese vessels who have no business being in the West Philippine Sea,” Malaya said.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually, and has ignored an international ruling that its assertion has no legal basis.
Second Thomas Shoal is about 200km from the western Philippine island of Palawan, and more than 1,000 kilometres from China’s nearest major landmass, Hainan island.
As China moves ever more confidently to assert its claims to sovereignty over the waters, officials and experts have warned of the potential for collisions.
The Philippine Navy deliberately grounded the World War II-era BRP Sierra Madre on Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 to check China’s advance in the waters.
The troops stationed on the crumbling ship depend on regular supply deliveries for their survival.
The Philippines has outposts on nine reefs and islands in the Spratlys, including Second Thomas Shoal.