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Philippines Challenges China to Pursue Arbitration Following Water Cannon Incident

Footage released by the Philippine military shows two Chinese coast guard ships hitting the wooden-hulled boat with high-pressure sprays.

The defense chief of the Philippines has challenged China to bring its maritime sovereignty claims in the South China Sea to international arbitration following the recent water cannon attack by Chinese coast guard vessels.

Chinese coast guard ships attacked a Philippine supply vessel with water cannons at the Second Thomas Shoal on March 23, resulting in injuries to crew members and significant damage to the vessel.

This incident marked the second time within a month that the vessel, Unaizah May 4, had been harmed by a Chinese coast guard water cannon assault. A previous confrontation on March 5 also led to injuries among the crew members.

Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro condemned the attacks and emphasized that Beijing should address its maritime claims in accordance with international laws instead of resorting to attacking Philippine vessels.

“If China is confident in their claims, why not seek arbitration under international law?” Mr. Teodoro stated during a press briefing on March 25.

“No country recognizes [their claims], and they view this as an attempt to utilize force, intimidate, and coerce the Philippines into pursuing their ambitions.”

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The Unaizah May 4 vessel was delivering supplies and transporting Filipino sailors to a territorial outpost in the shoal when it was blocked and surrounded by China Coast Guard ships and suspected militia vessels.

A Philippine task force on the South China Sea stated that Chinese vessels engaged in “reckless and dangerous” behavior toward the Philippine ship, which culminated in the firing of water cannons.
Footage released by the Philippine military shows two China Coast Guard ships hitting the wooden-hulled boat with high-pressure water cannon sprays at close range, causing the boat to shift in the high seas.
The Philippine Foreign Ministry stated that it has summoned China’s envoy to convey to Beijing its strong protest against the “aggressive actions” of the Chinese vessels in the South China Sea.

“China’s aggressive actions call into question its sincerity in lowering the tensions and promoting peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Even as the Philippines continues to engage China in dialogue and diplomacy at the bilateral and multilateral levels, China’s aggressive actions contradict and put to waste ASEAN–China efforts to promote practical activities to foster peace and cooperation in the region.”

However, Beijing blames Manila and accused the Philippine ship of intruding into its territorial waters. The Chinese Foreign Ministry warned that the Philippines will bear “all potential consequences.”

The Second Thomas Shoal, known as Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines and Renai Reef in China, is situated approximately 105 nautical miles from the Palawan Province of the Philippines, placing it under Philippine jurisdiction.

As per the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which China is a signatory, maritime areas within 200 nautical miles (230 miles) of coastlines fall within a nation’s exclusive economic zone.

US Voices Support for Philippines

U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller mentioned in a statement that the United States “stands with its ally the Philippines” and denounces the “dangerous actions” of the Chinese vessels in the South China Sea.

He cautioned Beijing that any attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft in the South China Sea would trigger a U.S. mutual defense treaty with the Philippines.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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