Newsdeck

South China Sea

Philippines tells China to ‘back off’ after South China Sea standoff

Chinese coast guard vessel sailling near the area of China's oil drilling rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea. Photographer: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images

MANILA, Nov 18 (Reuters) - The Philippines on Thursday condemned "in strongest terms" the actions of three Chinese coast guard vessels that it said blocked and used water cannon on resupply boats headed towards a Philippine-occupied atoll in the South China Sea.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said no one was hurt during Tuesday’s incident at the Second Thomas Shoal but the Philippines boats, which were transporting food to military personnel based there, had to abort their mission.

“China has no law enforcement rights in and around these areas. They must take heed and back off,” Locsin said in a statement, reminding China that a public vessel is covered by a Philippines-United States Mutual Defense Treaty.

Locsin said he had conveyed “in the strongest terms” to China’s ambassador in Manila “our outrage, condemnation and protest of the incident.”

China’s embassy did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

The Second Thomas Shoal, 105 nautical miles (195 km) off Palawan, is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and a small contingent of military have occupied it since 1999 having intentionally grounded a navy ship on the reef.

China regards the shoal as its territory as it falls within the “nine-dash line” that it uses on maps denoting its claim to almost the entire South China Sea. A 2016 international arbitration ruling, however, said the Chinese line had no legal basis.

Locsin said China’s failure to exercise self-restraint “threatens the special relationship” between the two countries.

The office of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been a staunch supporter of China, said it was aware of the incident at the shoal.

“We will continue to assert our sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction,” acting spokesperson Karlo Nograles said.

Before the incident, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said authorities had noticed an unusual presence of Chinese maritime militia near the atoll and Philippine-occupied Thitu island. China has denied operating a militia.

There were 19 vessels near Second Thomas Shoal last week, and 45 near Thitu Island, Esperon told reporters, describing those as “very aggressive”.

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.