China Coast Guard Defends Water Cannon Attack on Philippine Vessels in West Philippine Sea
The China Coast Guard has defended its recent water cannon attack on Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea, asserting that it took “control measures” against the Philippine vessels on Saturday, December 9. The incident occurred near Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) off Zambales province.
According to a statement posted on China Daily, the China Coast Guard said that three vessels of the Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) were found “intruding” into the disputed waters. The Philippine vessels, identified as Datu Sanday, Datu Bankaw, and Datu Tamblot, were on a “regular humanitarian and support mission” to bring supplies to Filipino fishermen near the shoal when they were attacked by the China Coast Guard and the Chinese maritime militia.
The China Coast Guard claims sovereignty over the shoal, which it calls Huangyan Island, and asserts that it has “indisputable sovereignty” and “sovereign rights and jurisdiction” over the disputed island and its adjacent waters. However, the shoal is well within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), despite being 594 nautical miles from China’s Hainan Island.
This is not the first time the China Coast Guard has used water cannon to stop Philippine civilian ships in the disputed waters. Similar incidents occurred on August 5 and November 10 of this year.
The altercation has further heightened regional and international tensions, as it raises questions about China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, which overlap with the EEZs of several countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Several countries have urged China to abide by international laws and rulings, including the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling in favor of Manila.