China Accused by Philippines of Blocking Maritime Passage

Photo: AFP

On February 25th, the Philippines leveled accusations against the Chinese coast guard, alleging an attempt to obstruct a Philippine government vessel that was en route to deliver supplies to local fishermen. This incident marks the second time in a fortnight that such an occurrence has been reported near the contested Scarborough Shoal.

The vessel in question, the BRP Datu Sanday, was on a mission to provide fuel to fishermen operating in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal when it encountered aggressive behavior from a vessel of the China Coast Guard, accompanied by three additional Chinese maritime vessels on February 22nd, according to the Philippine Coast Guard’s account.

In a detailed incident report, the Philippine Coast Guard outlined that three out of the four Chinese ships came alarmingly close, within a 100-meter radius of the Datu Sanday’s bow. The report further detailed various provocative actions taken by the Chinese vessels, including shadowing the Filipino ship, jamming its transponder, and executing other hazardous maneuvers deemed dangerous.


Commodore Jay Tarriela, a spokesperson for the Filipino coast guard specializing in South China Sea affairs, commended the captain of the BRP Datu Sanday for his exceptional navigational skills, which allowed him to successfully navigate away from the Chinese vessels’ attempts to block their path.

This incident follows closely on the heels of a similar encounter involving another Philippine Coast Guard vessel, the BRP Datu Tamblot, which reportedly faced comparable challenges in the same area just a week prior.

The Scarborough Shoal has been a longstanding point of contention between China and the Philippines, especially since 2012 when China took control of the area, denying access to Filipino fishermen who have historically frequented the shoal’s fertile fishing grounds.

In response to the latest incident, China’s Global Times, a state-affiliated publication, reported that the China Coast Guard had thwarted the Datu Sanday after it “illegally intruded into waters near China’s Huangyan Island,” referring to the Scarborough Shoal by its Chinese designation.

Located 240 kilometers west of Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island, and nearly 900 kilometers from China’s closest significant landmass, Hainan, the Scarborough Shoal is geographically much closer to the Philippines than to China. Despite this, China maintains a nearly comprehensive claim over the South China Sea, a stance that has been largely dismissed by an international tribunal which found Beijing’s expansive maritime claims to be without legal foundation.

The ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea have been marked by a series of tense standoffs between Chinese and Philippine vessels, characterized by collisions and aggressive actions such as the use of water cannons by Chinese ships against Philippine boats. These incidents underscore the volatile nature of the region’s geopolitical landscape and the intricate challenges involved in navigating the contested waters of the South China Sea.

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Staff Report

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