A chinese coast guard ship blocked the way of one Philippine patrol when she approached a disputed area this Sunday. The episode, which is part of the Beijing’s usual intimidation maneuverscould have resulted in a shock.
The confrontation between the Chinese ship and the BRP Malapascua, from Manila, took place in the vicinity of the Second Thomas Shoal shoal – known locally as the Ayungin shoal – in the Spratly archipelago. This land is under Philippine control and constitutes the most disputed region of the busy sea canal.
According to journalists who were on board the Malapascua and his brother BRP Malabrigo -in a new country strategy for denounce China’s increasingly aggressive actions-, the incident occurred just after the boats approached and after receiving several orders to leave the waters -even in previous days of navigation-.
“We would have crashed over the bow if I hadn’t turned off the engine and reversed,” said the commanding officer of the 45-meter craft, Rodel Hernández, who described the incident as a confrontation between “David and Goliath.”
The Officer added that both the Malapascua and the Malabrigo had communicated their intention to enter the sandbank to do a “place reconnaissance” and they had asked the Chinese ships to “keep out of our way”to which the counterpart responded by denouncing that it was a illegal navigation in territorial waters of the regime and permission to circulate was denied.
A second Chinese coast guard, about twice the size of the Philippine vessel, was seen in the vicinity.
Although this was one of the most tense moments experienced on the ship in more than a week of patrolling the disputed routes, these types of actions are part of the practices that Beijing habitually employs to intimidate its enemies.
Second Thomas Shoal is located about 200 kilometers from the main Philippine island, Palawanalready more than a thousand kilometers from the largest Chinese landmassthe island of Hainan. In turn, it is located in the south china seathrough which a large part of the world tradeestimated at about 5 trillion dollars by year.
In the past decade, Beijing destroyed thousands of acres of reefs in Spratlys with the aim of creating militarized islands with landing strips, ports and radar systems that serve as an extension of its attack operations in the area.
To support his claim, Xi Jinping has ordered the navigation of hundreds of his coast guard ships and patrols through the waters, and they are in charge of carrying out these maneuvers on approaching ships.
That is why the Philippines has put special effort into keep your presence there given that “If we stopped watching, they would soon take over Ayungin as well. We have to always be there and defy their harassment.”Hernandez commented.
On Saturday, the Philippine Coast Guard located more than 100 enemy vessels on the Whitsun Reef, claimed by Manila as part of its exclusive economic zone.
For its part, the near collision between the boats occurred just one day after the Philippine president, Ferdinand Marcosreceived in Manila the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, qin gangin an attempt to keep open the talks already underway that seek to reduce tensions in the disputed waterway.
(With information from AFP and AP)
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