Philippines chides China for 'stirring up trouble' in South China Sea
Philippines chides China for 'stirring up trouble' in South China Sea
Philippines chides China for 'stirring up trouble' in South China Sea
by DZRH News07 March 2024
A Chinese Coast Guard vessel blocks the Philippine resupply vessel Unaizah May 4, on its way to a resupply mission at Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, March 5, 2024. REUTERS/Adrian Portugal

By Mikhail Flores

MANILA (Reuters) -A dramatic stand-off with Beijing in the South China Sea this week was the most serious incident yet for the Philippines, its top security officials said on Wednesday, vowing not to back down in asserting the country's sovereign rights.

The Philippines has been incensed by what it calls repeated aggressive conduct by China's coastguard, accusing its ships of using water cannon and blocking and harassing a Philippine resupply mission on Tuesday for troops stationed at the disputed Second Thomas Shoal.

The Philippines' South China Sea task force said a top admiral was on board a vessel that was water cannoned by China's coastguard, shattering its windshield and wounding four navy personnel. The admiral was unharmed.


"This is the most serious incident yet," task force spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said, accusing China of "deliberately stirring up trouble" and "maliciously inciting hype".

China accused the Philippines of intruding on its territory, claiming indisputable sovereignty over the reef, located 1,300 km (808 miles) off its mainland. China claims most of the South China Sea as its own, despite an international arbitration panel concluding that position had no basis under international law.

Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro on Wednesday said China's claims were baseless and its actions this week were "patently illegal and downright uncivilised".

"This claim is, simply put, one that no right-thinking state in the world agrees with and which many outright condemn," Teodoro said in a statement.


"(Its) vain attempt to manufacture and sell this story falters in the face of real, incontrovertible facts."


Tuesday's incident was the latest in a series of run-ins between the Philippines and China over disputed areas of the South China Sea, coinciding with a recent surge in defence activities between the militaries of Manila and Washington.

Australia and Southeast Asian nations on Wednesday called for restraint in the contested South China Sea and adherence to a "rules-based" order in the Indo-Pacific.


"We encourage all countries to avoid any unilateral actions that endanger peace, security and stability in the region," they said in a joint statement after a three-day meeting.

A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said the situation was generally stable and China's position on the Second Thomas Shoal was consistent and clear.

"We stand with our Philippine allies," a Pentagon spokesman said on Wednesday, a day after the U.S. State Department reiterated its support and cited China's "provocative actions."

The Philippines and United States have a Mutual Defence Treaty binding them to defend each other if attacked, raising the stakes in a region where tensions have simmered for decades over Beijing's claims to territory in the South China Sea, a key conduit for global commerce.


Philippine officials on Wednesday said invoking that pact would be a serious matter, although consultations were taking place between both countries.

Speaking while in Australia, however, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said it was not the time nor reason to invoke the treaty, but the incident was being viewed "with great alarm".

The Philippine foreign ministry said its embassy in China has issued a "demarche" or formal reprimand to its Beijing counterpart.

(Reporting by Mikhail Flores; Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Susan Heavey; Writing by Karen Lema; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor, Martin Petty and Ros Russell)

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