Philippines accuses China of ‘reckless behaviour’ over collision between Chinese vessels and Philippine ship

Manila claims Chinese vessels rammed ship that was resupplying grounded naval vessel in the South China Sea

Protesters in Manila, Philippines, holding a rally to criticise sea maneuvers by Chinese vessels against Philippine vessels in the South China Sea

The Philippines has accused China of “dangerous and reckless behaviour” after a collision between Chinese navy and coast guard vessels and a Philippine resupply ship near disputed territory in the South China Sea.

Manila claims that the Chinese vessels rammed a ship that was resupplying the Sierra Madre, a second World War naval vessel grounded on the Second Thomas Shoal.

The Philippines claims the reef as part of its exclusive economic zone but China also claims sovereignty over it, along with much of the South China Sea. An international arbitration court in 2016 rejected China’s claim as baseless.

“Our personnel showed restraint and professionalism, refrained from escalating the tension, and carried on with their mission,” said Eduardo Año, national security adviser to Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos Jnr.


China, which refers to the Second Thomas Shoal as Ren’ai Jiao, said that the Sierra Madre was illegally grounded, and the Philippines resupply ship was carrying construction materials to shore it up.

“One supply vessel and two speed boats of the Philippines, without permission from the Chinese government, intruded into waters near Ren’ai Jiao in China’s Nansha Qundao in an attempt to send materials, including construction materials, to the military vessel illegally grounded at Ren’ai Jiao,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said.

“China Coast Guard took necessary control measures to stop the Philippine vessels in accordance with the law. The manoeuvres at the scene were professional, restrained, justified and lawful.”

Last Saturday China introduced new rules allowing its maritime authorities to detain non-Chinese citizens for up to two months for illegally entering its territorial waters. China has used water cannon against Philippines ships in recent weeks but Monday’s collision represents an escalation.

The Philippines and the United States have a mutual defence pact which both Manila and Washington have suggested could be triggered if China makes a fatal attack on Philippines vessels or personnel.

“We will exert our utmost in order to fulfil our sworn mandate to protect our territorial integrity, sovereignty, and sovereign rights,” Philippines defence secretary Gilberto Teodoro said on Monday.

Mr Lin defended the new Chinese regulations giving the coast guard the right to use deadly force against foreign vessels refusing to leave waters Beijing claims as its own.

“The regulations are rolled out by China Coast Guard to enforce China’s Coast Guard Law, standardise the administrative law-enforcement procedures of coast guard agencies and better uphold order at sea. It is consistent with universal practices.

“On issues related to the South China Sea, China stands to properly handle differences and disputes through negotiation and consultation with countries directly concerned, and at the same time resolutely respond to any infringement and provocative moves at sea.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times