The Philippines has again called on Beijing to stop its “provocative actions” in disputed areas of the South China Sea, saying it had summoned the Chinese ambassador after two near collisions between Chinese and Filipino ships over the weekend.
The incidents took place on Sunday near Second Thomas Shoal, which lies within Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as the Philippines tried to resupply sailors on the Sierra Madre, a ship it grounded there in 1999.
Beijing and Manila have each blamed the other for causing the near collisions.
Jonathan Malaya, a spokesperson for the Philippines National Security Council, told a press conference on Monday that one of the Philippines’s boats was damaged in the incident although nobody on board was injured.
Coast Guard Commodore Jay Tarriela told reporters the damage amounted to “more than a scratch” but that its seaworthiness would be more closely assessed once the ship was back in port.
Beijing acknowledged on Sunday that there had been a “near collision” between the ships, but said it was the Philippines’s fault.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the vessels were travelling “headlong” towards the lagoon and the Chinese ships took “professional and restrained” action to “uphold China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests”.
It added that it would continue to take such actions in defence of its “maritime rights”.
Manila, meanwhile, said the Chinese vessel engaged in “dangerous blocking manoeuvres” and said a Philippine coastguard vessel escorting the resupply boat was also “bumped” by a ship from China’s maritime militia.
China claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety, despite a UN tribunal finding this to be without legal basis.
The Philippines and other neighbouring countries also have overlapping claims to the waterway, which is one of the world’s busiest trading routes, and is thought to contain significant reserves of oil and natural gas.
In response to Sunday’s collisions, the US state department accused China of “dangerous and unlawful actions”, and reaffirmed that its mutual defence treaty with Manila “extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft – including those of its Coast Guard – anywhere in the South China Sea.”
Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Montevideo published an official release denying United States claims of illegal Chinese fishing in the South Atlantic praising the good relations with Uruguay, and saying that Uruguay, which has rather friendly relations with China, had no beef with Chinese fishing fleets.
Sources: Al Jazeera, MercoPress.