Philippines accuses China of bad behaviour in South China Sea

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Romeo Brawner Jr. speaks to the media during a press briefing at Western Command in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines, August 10, 2023. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo

The Philippines has accused China of engaging in risky manoeuvres within the contested South China Sea. Again. This comes after a Chinese naval vessel closely followed a Philippine navy ship and attempted to cross its course. The incident occurred on October 13 near Thitu Island, referred to as Pag-asa Island in the Philippines. The Philippine vessel, BRP Benguet, issued a radio warning to China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Ship 621. The PLAN ship proceeded to shadow the Benguet, which was conducting a resupply mission, and then made an attempt to cross the bow of the ship at a distance of 320 metres, as reported by the Philippines Armed Forces.

Thitu Island is part of the Spratly Islands chain, which was occupied by the Philippines in the 1970s and is currently home to around 400 residents.

The Armed Forces statement mentioned that the manoeuvres present significant risks to maritime safety. China must immediately cease these unsafe actions and conduct themselves professionally, adhering to international law. The statement describes Beijing’s presence near Thitu Island as unlawful and asserts that its actions violate international law.

Over the past few months, there have been multiple encounters between the Philippines and China in areas within Manila’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In the previous month, divers from the Philippine Coast Guard removed a floating barrier that China had installed at Scarborough Shoal. This shoal was seized by Beijing from Manila after a prolonged standoff in 2012.

Furthermore, several incidents have been reported at Second Thomas Shoal during resupply missions to the Sierra Madre, which the Philippines intentionally grounded on the reef in 1999 to reinforce its territorial claim to the waters. The shoal is located about 195 kilometres (121 miles) northwest of the Philippine’s Palawan province.

In 2016, The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China’s claim to the South China Sea had no legal foundation. However, Beijing has disregarded this decision, continuing to expand and build military installations in the disputed waters while deploying its fishing fleets, maritime militia, and coast guard to assert its sovereignty. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam also lay claim to various portions of the South China Sea.

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