• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 9:01am

Philippine vessel evades Chinese coastguard ships in disputed waters

Philippines boat carrying supplies to soldiers evades coastguard after a two-hour stand off

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 March, 2014, 8:44pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 May, 2014, 5:55pm

A Philippine government ship slipped past a Chinese coastguard blockade yesterday and brought food and fresh troops to a marooned navy ship used as a base by Philippine troops to bolster the country's territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.

The cat-and-mouse-like confrontation was witnessed by journalists, who were allowed by the Philippine military to board the government vessel to show what Manila has said is "China's bullying" in the disputed waters.

The two-hour stand-off was the latest in a series of escalations in a dispute between the two countries over their competing claims to waters and islands close to Philippine land mass.

The incident took place at Second Thomas Shoal, where a small number of Philippine soldiers are stationed on a navy vessel that was grounded there in 1999 to assert the Philippines' sovereignty.

Second Thomas Shoal is part of the Spratlys, a chain of islets that sit near key shipping lanes, surrounded by rich fishing grounds that are believed to lie atop huge oil and gas reserves.

Four Chinese vessels had encircled Second Thomas Shoal as the Philippine vessel approached. Two of the vessels then chased the Philippine boat and tried to stop it reaching the shoal.

The vessels appeared to get within a few hundred metres of each other, with one of the Chinese vessels sailing across the Philippine vessel's bow twice. Another tailed the Philippine boat.

The Chinese radioed the Filipinos, telling them to stop. "You will take full responsibility for the consequences of your action," the voice said in English. "This is the Republic of the Philippines," Philippine navy Lieutenant Ferdinand Gato, who was in charge of the supply mission, replied.

"We are here to provision the troops."

The marines on board the supply boat waved the "V" for peace sign toward the Chinese vessel.

The Filipino captain manoeuvred his vessel to shallow waters where the Chinese ships couldn't sail to reach the marooned vessel, BRP Sierra Madre, which has become an awkward symbol of Philippine sovereignty in the remote offshore territory.

On March 9, Chinese vessels blocked a resupply mission to the shoal, called Ayungin by the Philippines.

Philippine air force planes have airdropped food and water at least twice since then.

As they approached the shoal, one of the marines raised the Philippine flag on the supply ship.

Once inside the shoal, the marines and the crew applauded and exchanged high-fives.

"Our policy is maximum tolerance," Gato said. "I will not let them stop us because our marines will starve."

The supply ship carried about 10 tonnes of food, including rice, canned goods and water, Gato said. The provisions were placed in sacks and transferred to the marooned ship using ropes pulled with pulleys.

"They were able to pass through. The Chinese coastguard vessel and the mission is a success," Cherryl Tindog, a spokeswoman for the military's western command, said. "We have successfully resupplied and rotated the troops."

The Philippine foreign affairs department denounced the Chinese action.

"We condemn the harassment by the Chinese coastguard of our civilian vessels which are on their way to Ayungin Shoal to resupply provisions to our personnel stationed there," it said, using the Filipino name for the outcrop.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei last night characterised the latest move by the Philippines as a move to keep its claim to the area alive. He said it could not shake China's determination to defend its territory.

Yesterday's confrontation occurred a day before the Philippines was due to file its case with a United Nations tribunal to challenge China's territorial claim to most of the South China Sea.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Philippines, the nation of servants, crowing on its "great victory" in supplying food including I assume a few coconuts to their hapless comrades stuck on a hapless vessel.
And remember, these Chinese activities are under the direct control of the great, fearless leader himself. Creating David vs. Goliath situations is a poor base of successful foreign policy and it has no long term success potential. Similar to other issues, this cannon-boat diplomacy shows just how stuck in the past the minds in Beijing are.
How unfortunate, the US is "pushing" the Philippines to the forefront to contest with China for the reefs in the South China seas. It is quite obvious that Philippines will not be a winner in the long term, because it is still too weak to grab islands and reefs. The Philippine navy and marine are too weak to do anything effective against China. Most of all, China claimed those islands and reefs long before the Philippines were aware of those features in the SCS.
So the question is why?
The Philippines finally got something right (from a military perspective). Hope the powers that be in Hong Kong don't request an apology from President Aquino for outwitting Hong Kong's Chinese rulers!
Great! Good on you Philippines. Keep the West Philippines Sea pig free.
Can German swines swim?
If you are in HK, I would say go back to where you come from.
Then apparently either you or your ancestors managed to have swum from Germany to Australia. German swines CAN swim!!!
why does china think it can grab land over 1000 miles away from their territory that is already a part of other countries internationally recognized 'exclusive econimic zones' ? i thought china agreed with international law. have they become pirates now?
Pusong Tsinoy
hey brownman I know you hate Filipinos base on what i observe, but dont be fool not all Filipinos are alike than what you expected. Listen The Gov't of the Philippines invistigate the case with Taiwan Gov't and the result end up with peaceful resolution. and listen again, about Sabah,,, The Republic of the Philippines is not the one who is responsible for Sabah intrusion, it is The Sultanate of Sulu which is now Part of Bangsamoro or The Islamic Country State part of the Republic of the Philippines, The Govt. of The Philippines made it to resolve the problem by asking the Sultan of Sulu to remove their Royal Force,,, in other hand Philippine Navy Ships fetch all Filipinos in Sabah to return to the Philippines... you are the one who is easy to complain and condemn without analyzing your word... study the news first brownman



SCMP.com Account