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Philippines Tells Beijing Words Must Match Actions in South China Sea

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

June 19, 2024

© atdr / Adobe Stock

© atdr / Adobe Stock

The Philippines urged China on Wednesday to avoid actions that endanger sailors and vessels in the South China Sea, saying peace could not be achieved if China's words did not match its behaviour in the disputed waters.

The Philippine foreign ministry denounced as "illegal and aggressive" China's actions during a routine resupply mission on June 17, which the Philippine military said had severely injured a navy sailor and damaged Manila's vessels.

"The department has been exerting efforts to rebuild a conducive environment for dialogue and consultation with China on the South China Sea," the ministry said in a statement.

"This cannot be achieved if China's words do not match their actions on the waters."

A Philippine sailor suffered serious injury after what its military described as "intentional-high speed ramming" by the Chinese Coast Guard, aiming to disrupt a resupply mission for troops stationed on the Second Thomas Shoal.

China's Coast Guard disputed the statement, saying Manila's vessel deliberately and dangerously approached a Chinese ship in an unprofessional manner, forcing it to take control measures, including "boarding inspections and forced evictions".

A military spokesperson said the sailor, who received a medal for wounded personnel from the military chief on Wednesday, lost a finger and was recovering in a hospital.

China's Coast Guard personnel, which Philippine military officials said were carrying knives and spears, looted firearms and "deliberately punctured" Philippine boats involved in the mission.

"They have no right or legal authority to hijack our operations and destroy Philippine vessels," military chief Romeo Brawner said in a briefing on Wednesday. "They boarded our boats illegally, they got our equipment, they acted like pirates."

China took no direct measures against Philippine personnel, its foreign ministry said in response on Wednesday.

"The law enforcement measures ... were professional and restrained, aimed at stopping the illegal fishing by Philippine ships, and no direct measures were taken against Philippine personnel," said ministry spokesperson Lin Jian.

Though the Philippines repeatedly claimed to be transporting daily necessities, it had been smuggling building materials and even weapons and ammunition in a bid to occupy Renai Reef for a long time, Lin told a regular press briefing.

China refers to the Second Thomas Shoal as Renai Reef, while Manila calls it Ayungin.

Britain, Canada and the United States have condemned China's actions, which occurred as Beijing's new coast guard rules allowing it to detain trespassers without trial took effect on June 15.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday held a call with Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo to discuss China's actions in the South China Sea and reaffirmed U.S. commitments to the Philippines under their defense treaty, the State Department said.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, which includes the Second Thomas Shoal, where the Philippines maintains a warship, Sierra Madre, beached in 1999 to reinforce its sovereignty claims, with a small crew.

In January, Manila and Beijing agreed to improve maritime communication through talks, especially regarding the shoal.

An international tribunal dismissed China's expansive claims in 2016, but the country has repeatedly said Philippine vessels illegally intrude into waters around disputed shoals.

(Reuters - Reporting by Mikhail Flores and Neil Jerome Morales; additional reporting by Laurie Chen in Beijing and Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by John Mair, Clarence Fernandez, Alison Williams and Sandra Maler)