Chinese vessel and Philippine supply ship collide in South China Sea, China says

A Chinese vessel and a Philippine supply ship rammed into each other on the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on Monday, China’s coast guard said, blaming the Philippines “entirely”.

It claimed that a Philippine supply ship entered the waters near the contested Second Thomas Shoal and “ignored China’s repeated solemn warnings – and dangerously approached a Chinese vessel in normal navigation in an unprofessional manner, resulting in a collision”.

Reacting to the incident in Manila, the Philippine military called out Chinese coast guard’s aggression and “deceptive” claims in the region.

“We will not dignify the deceptive and misleading claims of the China coast guard,” military spokesperson colonel Xerxes Trinidad said.

The official added that the Philippines will “not discuss operational details on the legal humanitarian rotation and resupply mission at Ayungin Shoal, which is well within our exclusive economic zone”, using the Filipino name for the shoal.

“The main issue remains to be the illegal presence and actions of Chinese vessels within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, which infringes on our sovereignty and sovereign rights.

“The continued aggressive actions of the CCG are escalating tensions in the region,” the spokesperson said.

Beijing has amped up its territorial conquest in the South China Sea, where it claims virtually all of the disputed waters.

On Saturday, it passed a new law authorising its coast guard to seize foreign ships “that illegally enter China’s territorial waters” and to detain foreign crews for up to 60 days. The law renewed a reference to 2021 legislation that says China’s coast guard can fire upon foreign ships if necessary.

China and the Philippines have frequently clashed on the disputed Spratly Islands. According to the Philippines, the shoal falls within its internationally recognised exclusive economic zone and often cites a 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s claims in the South China Sea.

This is the latest showdown in one of the world’s most hotly disputed waters, after a similar confrontation was seen in March earlier this year.

Chinese coast guard ships and suspected militia vessels have used powerful water cannons and dangerous blocking maneuvers that have injured Filipino Navy personnel, damaged their supply boats, and strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.

In March this year, the Philippines said Chinese coast guard ships backed by a military helicopter attempted unsuccessfully to block two Philippine government vessels carrying scientists from reaching two sandbars in the disputed South China Sea.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping territorial claims that have erupted from time to time into brief confrontations in the South China Sea.

Hostilities between China and the Philippines have surged since last year, resulting in minor collisions at sea and injuries to a few Filipino crewmen, sparking a war of words.

This comes as the Philippines has asked a United Nations body to formally recognise the extent of its undersea continental seabed in the South China Sea, where it would have the exclusive right to exploit resources, its Department of Foreign Affairs said Saturday.