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Countries Stand Behind the Philippines in Latest Maritime Harassment by China

Japan, G7 countries, Australia, and EU call for respecting international law after China's Coast Guard and militia fire water cannons at a Philippines vessel.



In this handout photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard, a Chinese coast guard ship uses water canons on a Philippine ship near the Philippine-occupied Second Thomas Shoal, South China Sea, during its re-supply mission on Aug. 5, 2023.

Ships of the China Coast Guard and maritime militia deployed water cannons against a vessel of the Philippines and subjected another boat "to extremely reckless and dangerous harassment at close proximity." The Philippine ships were headed for the Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal) in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). They were on a resupply mission on Friday morning, November 10. 

The Philippines condemned "China's latest unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous maneuvers" that "put the lives of our people at risk." A statement from the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea "firmly [insisted] that Chinese vessels responsible for these illegal activities leave the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal immediately."

The Philippine vessels were manned by navy and coast guard personnel and a few journalists were on board. They were on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre, the Philippines' outpost at the shoal. 

China expands its territorial claims with its new self-defined 10-dash line.

China's Falsified Claims

The Second Thomas Shoal is within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. This was defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS. Nevertheless, China continues to claim practically the entire South China Sea. This is despite a 2016 ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague that the major elements of China's claim were unlawful. 

"The Philippine Embassy in Beijing has demarched the Chinese foreign ministry and protested these actions. The Department of Foreign Affairs has also reached out to them and conveyed our protest directly through the Maritime Communications Mechanism," the Philippine task force said. 

Friday's incident was the latest of the documented provocation by China since Ferdinand Marcos Jr became president, and already the seventh in 2023 alone.

Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels surround a Philippine Coast Guard patrol boat (center) near Ayungin Reef in the South China Sea. On October 4, 2023 (©Philippine Coast Guard via Kyodo)

Tracking Ramped Up Chinese Aggression

Marcos had shifted Manila's foreign policy back to the West and other democratic allies. Before Marcos, the Philippine government under President Rodrigo Duterte kowtowed to China, saying the arbitral award that the Philippines won was "just a piece of paper" that he would "throw in a waste basket," and declaring his "love" for Xi Jinping. 

About three weeks earlier, Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels reportedly rammed Philippine resupply boats going to the same shoal. Official statements, though, only characterized the incidents as "collisions." 

In February 2023, China trained a military-grade laser on a Philippine Coast Guard vessel. In August 2022, only the second month of Marcos' presidency, the Chinese Coast Guard also deployed water cannons against the Philippines' resupply boats.

"Peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regard for the legitimate, well-established, and legally settled rights of others," the statement of the Philippine task force said. 

"The Philippines will not be deterred from exercising our legal rights over our maritime zones, including Ayungin Shoal which forms part of our Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf. We demand that China demonstrate that it is a responsible and trustworthy member of the international community," the statement continued. 

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel tries intercepting a Philippine Coast Guard patrol boat (foreground) near Ayungin Reef in the South China Sea. On October 4, 2023 (©Philippine Coast Guard via Kyodo)

Democracies React

Japan's Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhiko Koshikawa called for "a free and open maritime order." He emphasized, "Actions which increase tensions are not tolerated."

The envoys of four other G7 countries also posted statements calling for the enforcement of the rule of law.

Ambassador of France to the Philippines Marie Fontanel: 

Ambassador Dr Andreas Michael Pfaffernoschke of Germany to the Philippines: 

Laure Beaufils, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the Philippines:   

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Loss Carlson: 

The ambassadors of the European Union and Australia also called for international law to be observed and respected. 

Ambassador Luc Véron, Delegation of the EU to the Philippines:

HK Yu, Ambassador of Australia to the Philippines: 

Japan-Philippines Boosting Defense Partnership

The November 10 incident occurred almost a full week after the Philippines and Japan agreed to boost their defense partnership. "[U]nilateral attempts to change the status quo by force should never be tolerated," their two leaders agreed. It was an obvious reference to China's actions in the South China Sea. 

The Philippines also held joint coast guard exercises with Japan and the United States in early June. Those came just a few days after the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Commodore Jay Tarriela, the Philippine Coast Guard's spokesperson on the West Philippine Sea and adviser to the Commandant on Maritime Security Affairs posed a pointed question to Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu:

You mentioned China wants to promote dialogue over confrontation, so my question is about the apparent disconnect between China's words and actions related to its maritime interactions with the Philippines and perhaps with others in the region.

For example, when President Marcos and President Xi met in Beijing, they agreed to manage differences through peaceful means, and to promote freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, and reached consensus on the peaceful resolution of disputes on the basis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

But in the same month, Filipino fishermen who were simply fishing in Philippine EEZ were harassed and driven away by China Coast Guard. The following month, your Coast Guard directed a military-grade laser into @coastguardph vessel inside Philippine EEZ. So while China is talking about dialogue, China's actions show confrontation. Thus, my question is… why is there a big difference between China's words and actions?


US Ambassador Calls Out China's Double-speak

Tarriela's question impressed US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel for calling out "China's double-speak."


Author: JAPAN Forward

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