The Philippines summoned the Chinese ambassador on Monday following an incident where the China Coast Guard blocked and water-cannoned Filipino vessels in the disputed South China Sea. The incident occurred on Saturday as the Philippines Coast Guard escorted charter boats carrying supplies for Filipino military personnel stationed at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands.
China claims a significant portion of the South China Sea, despite a 2016 international court ruling that its assertion has no legal basis. The Philippines military and coast guard have accused China of breaking international law by blocking and using water cannons against the resupply mission, preventing one of the charter boats from reaching the shoal.
The US State Department and other countries, including Britain, Australia, Canada, and the European Union, have condemned China’s actions, stating that they threaten regional peace and stability. The Philippines has issued numerous diplomatic protests since 2020 over China’s illegal activities in the South China Sea.
Second Thomas Shoal, located about 200 kilometers from the Philippine island of Palawan and over 1000 kilometers from China’s nearest major landmass of Hainan Island, is a subject of sovereignty dispute between the two nations. The Philippines insists that the shoal is part of its exclusive economic zone.
Former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, in power from 2016 to 2022, was reluctant to criticize China and sought closer ties with Beijing to attract investments. However, there has been a shift towards strengthening defense ties with the United States, the former colonial ruler and longtime ally of the Philippines.
The incident on Saturday marks the first time since November 2021 that the Chinese coast guard used water cannons against a Philippine resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal. The Philippine government strongly condemned the harassment by Chinese vessels, emphasizing that under international law, the shoal cannot be subject to sovereignty claims or appropriation.