South China Sea: Philippine and Chinese vessels collide in contested waters

A Chinese Coast Guard ship uses a water cannon against a Filipino resupply vessel heading towards the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, in the South China Sea, on 10 December
Image caption,The Philippines accused China of causing “severe damage” to the engine of one boat after using water cannon

By George Wright

BBC News

A Philippine boat and Chinese ship have collided near a contested reef, in the latest territorial dispute between the two countries in the South China Sea.

The Philippines said China had “harassed, blocked, and executed dangerous manoeuvres”.

It comes a day after the Philippines accused China of using water cannons to obstruct three of its vessels.

The South China Sea is at the centre of a territorial dispute between China, the Philippines and other countries.

The Philippines said on Sunday that China had targeted Philippine civilian supply vessels in the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands, a flashpoint between the two countries.

One of two boats carrying provisions was “rammed” by a Chinese coast guard ship, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said in a statement.

It also accused China of causing “severe damage” to the engine of one boat after using water cannon.

But the China Coast Guard accused the Philippine boat of “deliberately colliding” with the Chinese vessel after “disregarding our multiple stern warnings”.

Separately, a convoy of civilian boats planning to deliver Christmas presents and provisions to Filipino fishermen and troops in the South China Sea aborted the trip due to “constant shadowing” by Chinese vessels, the organiser said.

It comes after the Philippines accused China of using war cannons to obstruct three of its vessels on Saturday, in what it called “illegal and aggressive” actions. Beijing said it had used what it called “control measures” on ships that had intruded into its waters.

Earlier this week, the Philippines accused China of “swarming” a reef off its coast after more than 135 military boats were spotted in the South China Sea.

  • Why the Philippines and China are on a collision course

Friction between the two countries over competing sovereignty claims has increased since Ferdinand Marcos Jr became Philippine president last year.

Last month, the Philippines carried out two separate joint air and sea patrols with the US, and with Australia a few days earlier.

An international tribunal invalidated China’s claim to 90% of the South China Sea in 2016, but Beijing does not recognise the ruling and has been building islands in the disputed waters in recent years.

The contested waters have also become a naval flashpoint for China-US relations, and in October US President Joe Biden warned that the US will defend the Philippines in case of any attack.

President Biden’s comments were made days after two collisions between Filipino and Chinese vessels in the waters.

Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei also claim parts of the sea.

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