Philippines rejects China’s account of South China Sea encounter

RFA and BenarNews Staff
Philippines rejects China’s account of South China Sea encounter A Chinese coast guard ship (left), with a Chinese militia vessel (right), blocks Philippine coast guard ship, the BRP Sindangan, as it heads towards Second Thomas Shoal in the disputed South China Sea during a rotation and resupply mission, Oct. 4, 2023.

Manila for the second time this month has dismissed China’s version of a military encounter near the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

On Monday, the Chinese military said it had monitored and warned off a Philippine warship that it accused of “trespassing” into the waters around the Scarborough Shoal.

Senior Col. Tian Junli, the spokesperson for China’s Southern Theater Command, said in a statement that the Philippine frigate “intruded into the waters adjacent to China’s Huangyan Dao without the approval of the Chinese government,” referring to the shoal by its Chinese name.

He said naval and air forces “tracked, monitored, warned, and restricted the Philippine military vessel according to law.”

On Tuesday, Philippine authorities responded with their own version of the incident. National Security Adviser Eduardo M. Año said the Navy’s BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) “conducted routine patrol operations in the general vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) without any untoward incident.”

“China is again over hyping this incident and creating unnecessary tensions between our two nations,” Año said.

This is the second time in three weeks that China claimed that Manila “violated China’s sovereignty” over the reef and that Chinese law enforcement forces drove Philippine ships away. Both times, the Philippines dismissed China’s claims and insisted that under international law, the Philippines had every right to patrol the area.

Test of US commitment

“Such incidents will re-occur with increased frequency,” said Carlyle Thayer, a veteran political analyst based in Canberra, Australia.

China seized Scarborough Shoal after a standoff with the Philippines in 2012 and has maintained control over it ever since. In 2016, an international tribunal dismissed China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea, including its islands, but Beijing has refused to accept it.

“China considers Philippine vessels’ activities near the shoal a violation of China’s sovereignty and will react strongly every time,” said Thayer, adding Beijing doesn’t want to be seen as weak.

Another South China Sea scholar, Hoang Viet from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Law, said that the recent rapprochement between the Philippines and the United States under current Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has also contributed to China’s ramped up response.

In February, Manila granted the U.S. access to four more military bases in the country.

This image released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, shows a Chinese militia vessel, top, near Philippine Coast Guard vessel BRP Cabra as they approach Second Thomas Shoal, in the disputed South China Sea on Sunday Oct. 22, 2023. [Armed Forces of the Philippines/AP]

“China wants to warn those countries which, in its opinion, are seeking to move closer to the U.S.,” Viet said.

“With such incidents, Beijing also wants to test Washington’s commitment in the region, especially as the U.S. is being drawn into so many global conflicts and crises.”

The U.S. has repeatedly stated that Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft – including those of its Coast Guard – anywhere in the South China Sea.

Manila, meanwhile, has “embarked on a tactic of assertive transparency,” according to Ray Powell from Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation. That means incidents in disputed waters are being reported in a timely and transparent manner. 

In late September, the Philippines said China had installed a 300-meter (984-foot) floating barrier to block Philippine fishermen from accessing the waters around the shoal. The Philippine Coast Guard carried out a “special operation” to cut the barrier and remove its anchor.

Jason Gutierrez in Manila contributed to this article.


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Edmund Lao
Nov 02, 2023 10:01 AM

China as a world power is very irresponsible
to them might is right
and GREED is their main problem
GREED will also be the cause of WW3
the world should be warned , Xi may be the next Reich, the next Adolf Hitler
We need a modern day Churchill