Saturday, July 13, 2024

Watch: China attacks Filipino ship with our reporter on board – here’s what happened next

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The Filipino crew was in radio contact with the China coast guard, requesting them to back off and also reading out a statement asserting the Philippines’s claims to the shoal.

As the reef neared, the Bagacay accelerated, attempting to take the heat from the Datu Bankaw, which had put out a call to nearby fishermen to collect its supplies.

The China Coast Guard eventually pulled back and as the Bagacay came within 1,000 yards of the southern entrance of the shoal, it spotted a 380-metre barrier of white buoys – yet another obstacle in its path.

The sea was unusually calm as the crew dispatched a drone to examine the artificial boundary. It was then that the Chinese pounced, attacking the ship with water cannon from both sides.

The Philippine coast guard condemned China’s actions.

It said it had assigned its vessel to “carry out a legitimate maritime patrol in the waters near Bajo De Masinloc” with the “primary objective to distribute fuel and food supplies” to support fishermen.

“During the patrol, the Philippine vessels encountered dangerous manoeuvres and obstruction from four China coast guard vessels and six Chinese maritime militia vessels,” it added.

The damage by the cannons “serves as evidence of the forceful water pressure used by the China coast guard in their harassment of the Philippine vessels.” 

The confrontation, although shocking, was not a rare incident in the South China Sea, where Chinese vessels have frequently deployed water cannons, lasers and other bullying tactics against the Philippines and any other ships they believe to be intruding on their territory.

The Philippines praised its coast guard for standing its ground. “They were not deterred and will persist in carrying out their legitimate operations to support Filipino fishermen and ensure their safety.”

The convoy later that day turned back towards port owing to the damage to the supply vessel.

Their crews – this time – were unscathed, but such incidents are a risk they must frequently face in the battle to control the strategic South China Sea, on the front line of tensions that many fear could spark the next international conflict.

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