US Ally Reveals Daring Patrol of China-Held Flashpoint Territory

Manila has blasted the Chinese coast guard’s “dangerous and blocking maneuvers” during a recent Philippine patrol mission to push back against Beijing and ferry supplies to fishermen near a contentious South China Sea feature.

The BRP Teresa Magbanua completed a 9-day patrol “in the vicinity [of] Bajo de Masinloc,” also known as Scarborough Shoal and which the Chinese call Huangyan Island, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Jay Tarriela wrote in a social media post on Sunday.

Scarborough Shoal is one of the most hotly disputed features in the South China Sea, where China’s expansive claims overlap with those of the Philippines and five other nations. Beijing gained de facto control over the uninhabited atoll, which lies nearly 600 miles from the nearest Chinese province, in 2012.

The 318-foot Teresa Magbanua, one of the largest vessels in the PCG’s fleet, was dispatched on February 1 to “ensure the safety of Filipino fishermen in the area and to safeguard them from further harassment,” Tarriela said.

The Southeast Asian country is livid after a video emerged last month showing the China coast guard again ejecting Philippine fishermen from their traditional fishing grounds near the resource-rich shoal.

Even the country’s clergy have weighed in, releasing a statement last week that it is morally permissible to seek the “friendship of allies who can help of defend what is ours.”

Tarriela said on Sunday that the Teresa Magbanua counted some 100 fishermen in 14 boats in the area. The crew “distributed food packs and groceries” to the seamen, who reportedly said the PCG’s presence instilled confidence in them to keep fishing there.

During the vessel‘s journey, its crew tracked four Chinese coast guard ships allegedly shadowing them.

They “performed dangerous and blocking maneuvers at sea against BRP Teresa Magbanua four times, with the CCG (Chinese coast guard) vessels crossing the bow of the PCG vessel twice, recklessly disregarding the “Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea” once again,” Tarriela wrote.

Newsweek has reached out to the Philippine armed forces and Chinese Foreign Ministry with written requests for comment.

Four ships belonging to China’s paramilitary maritime militia fleet were also observed in the area, Tarriela said, adding that the Philippine side had repeatedly contacted their Chinese counterparts by radio to assert the “clear and principled position of the Philippines in accordance with international law.”

The Southeast Asian country has sovereignty over the atoll, its territorial sea, and surrounding waters within the Philippines exclusive economic zone, Tarriela said.

“Philippine Coast Guard vessel 9701 [Teresa Magbanua] repeatedly, illegally intruded into the waters near China’s Scarborough Shoal,” Chinese coast guard spokesperson Gan Yu said in press statement released Sunday evening.

“When the warning was ineffective, the China coast guard took measures to control the route of the Philippine ship and force it to leave in accordance with the law and handled it on the spot in a professional and standardized manner,” Gan added.

In a bid to reinforce its territorial assertions, Beijing often claims to have forced foreign ships to leave contested areas, even when evidence suggests the vessels completed their mission and left of their own accord.

The Philippines lodged a case disputing China’s claim over the energy-rich area at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the Netherlands, in 2013. In a 2016 ruling, which China maintains is illegal, the court determined Scarborough Shoal is legally a rock. Therefore, it does not qualify for territorial waters of its own.

However, the feature is within the Philippines‘ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, giving that country alone the right to claim natural resources there, the ruling stated.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

The post US Ally Reveals Daring Patrol of China-Held Flashpoint Territory appeared first on Newsweek.

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