Philippine Civilians Risk China Faceoff in Sail to Disputed Sea

(Bloomberg) -- More than a hundred Philippine civilians are set to sail to the South China Sea this week, risking a faceoff with dozens of Chinese vessels reportedly deployed near a shoal that’s been the site of recent clashes.

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The civilian mission to Scarborough Shoal scheduled for May 14 to May 17 to deliver supplies to fisherfolks will push through despite reported Chinese presence in the area, organizers said in a statement Monday. “China’s actions are failing to intimidate Filipinos,” they said.

Some 30 Chinese coast guard and militia ships are expected to be near the vicinity of the shoal around the time of the sail, according to Ray Powell, director of a Stanford University project tracking Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea. That’s “by far the largest blockade” observed in the area, he said.

The civilian mission may heighten tensions between Manila and Beijing as they both assert their South China Sea claims. Last month, China used water cannons on Philippine vessels near Scarborough Shoal.

Read: China Exploring Disputed Shoal for Reclamation, Philippines Says

A similar civilian sail from the Philippines was cut short late last year after Chinese ships shadowed Filipino vessels.

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