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Sunday, May 19, 2024
Sunday May 19, 2024
Sunday May 19, 2024

Close encounter in the South China Sea: Philippines coast guard confronted by Chinese vessels

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Tense confrontation highlights escalating tensions in disputed waters

In a dramatic encounter in the South China Sea, a Philippines coast guard vessel faced off against a fleet of Chinese ships near Scarborough Shoal, a contested coral atoll claimed by both countries.

The BBC was on board the Philippines coast guard vessel BRP Bagacay when the tense standoff occurred. As the larger Chinese ship approached, both vessels accelerated, bringing them dangerously close. The faces of the Chinese crew were visible as they filmed the confrontation.

Preparations for a potential collision were made by the Filipino crew, who hung yellow foam barriers over the side. Suddenly, the Chinese ship veered sharply across the bow of the Filipino vessel, forcing it to slow down abruptly. The two ships came within five meters of each other in a high-stakes manoeuvre.

Located 220km west of the Philippines coast, Scarborough Shoal has been a flashpoint in territorial disputes between the Philippines and China. Despite the Filipino captain’s efforts to outrun the Chinese vessels, they continued to pursue aggressively, with up to 10 ships from the Chinese coast guard and maritime militia joining the pursuit.

The Filipino captain managed to bring the vessel within 600m of the shoal, a significant achievement but encountered a new barrier installed by the Chinese. As the Chinese ships closed in, they unleashed powerful water cannons, causing damage to the Filipino vessel and forcing the crew to seek shelter inside.

The encounter underscores the escalating tensions in the South China Sea, exacerbated by President Bongbong Marcos’s directive for the coast guard to assertively challenge Chinese presence in disputed areas. Commodore Jay Tarriela, the Coast Guard spokesman, emphasized the Philippines’ commitment to defending its territorial claims despite China’s opposition.

The mission, aimed at supplying food and fuel to Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, also aimed to assert the Philippines’ sovereignty over the area, which lies within its exclusive economic zone.

Despite an international court ruling against China’s claims in the South China Sea, China has refused to acknowledge the decision, continuing its assertive behaviour in the region.

The Philippines coast guard’s mission, supported by the US, signifies a bold stance against China’s maritime assertiveness. While the outcome of this confrontation remains uncertain, the Philippines remains resolute in defending its interests in the face of China’s aggressive tactics

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