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Latest South China Sea Standoff: 4 Chinese Ships Shadow and Block Philippine Vessel

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The Chinese coast guard ships allegedly crossed the bow of the Philippine vessel twice during the encounter.

According to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), at least four Chinese coast guard ships shadowed a Philippine ship on over 40 occasions in an attempt to block it from patrolling near the Scarborough Shoal last week.

The PCG deployed the BRP Teresa Magbanua for a nine-day maritime patrol around the Scarborough Shoal on Feb. 1 to assist and distribute food to 100 Filipino fishermen operating in the area.

The Philippine vessel was shadowed by four China Coast Guard (CCG) ships more than 40 times during the patrol, with one point coming within 176 meters of the vessel, according to the PCG’s statement.

The Chinese ships engaged in “dangerous and blocking maneuvers” and crossed the bow of the PCG vessel twice during the encounter. The PCG also spotted four Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels.

“Nevertheless, the PCG vessel professionally engaged both the CCG and CMM vessels through radio, reiterating the clear and principled position of the Philippines in accordance with international law,” it stated.

In response, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) alleged that the PCG vessel “illegally intruded” into its territory and said that its coast guards “implemented measures according to law.”

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Collin Koh, a senior fellow at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, refuted the CCP’s claims, saying that the Chinese coast guard ships’ actions violated the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“Such an act is in fact illegal because it undermines PH [the Philippines’s] legitimate exercise of EEZ [exclusive economic zone] sovereign rights,” Mr. Koh posted on X (formerly Twitter).

Scarborough Shoal is an atoll in the South China Sea, strategically located along crucial international waterways. Manila refers to it as “Bajo de Masinloc,” while Beijing calls it “Huangyan Island.”

A Chinese Coast Guard ship uses water cannons on Philippine navy-operated supply boat M/L Kalayaan as it approaches Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin Shoal, in the disputed South China Sea, on Dec. 10, 2023. (Philippine Coast Guard via AP)
A Chinese Coast Guard ship uses water cannons on Philippine navy-operated supply boat M/L Kalayaan as it approaches Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin Shoal, in the disputed South China Sea, on Dec. 10, 2023. (Philippine Coast Guard via AP)
The Philippines ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez warns that conflict between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea could ignite at any time. He told Nikkei Asia that the South China Sea “is the flashpoint, not Taiwan.”

Mr. Romualdez warned that if anything happens in their area of the South China Sea, it’s like the beginning of another world war.

He also mentioned that Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. tried to discuss the issue with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the sidelines of the APEC summit last month, but the CCP leader appeared unwilling to engage in dialogue about the issue.

The South China Sea is claimed in part by several countries and is a vital maritime trade route worth over $3 trillion annually.

The ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague in 2016 in favor of legal action taken by the Philippines didn’t see China’s communist regime change its behavior, with its vessels repeatedly intruding into the Philippines’ maritime zones.

Jon Sun and Michael Zhuang contributed to this report.





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