Philippines Says China Used Water Cannons Amid Sea Tensions

(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines said three Chinese coast guard ships fired water cannons at two Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, in the latest flare-up of tensions between the two countries in the disputed waters.

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A China Coast Guard ship deployed water cannon on a Philippine bureau of fisheries vessel on Tuesday near Scarborough Shoal, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Commodore Jay Tarriela said in a statement posted on X. Two other Chinese coast guard ships also used water cannons against a Philippine coast guard vessel that was patrolling the area with the fisheries boat, damaging its railing and canopy, he added.

“This damage serves as evidence of the forceful water pressure used by the China Coast Guard in their harassment of the Philippine vessels,” Tarriela said.

Tensions in the disputed waters have escalated in recent months between the Philippines and China, which claims nearly the entire waterway, including areas Manila says are part of its exclusive economic zone.

China’s coast guard also installed a 380-meter floating barrier “that covers the entire entrance of the shoal, effectively restricting access to the area,” Tarriela said. The Philippines previously removed a China-installed floating barrier in Scarborough Shoal that prevented access for Filipino fishing vessels.

China’s coast guard drove away two Philippine ships from Scarborough Shoal, China Central Television reported earlier on Tuesday, without giving further details.

“China urges the Philippines to immediately stop infringement and provocation, and not to challenge China’s strong determination in safeguarding sovereignty,” Lin Jian, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said during a regular press briefing in Beijing.

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Tarriela said during their latest patrol, the Philippine vessels encountered “dangerous maneuvers and obstruction from four China Coast Guard vessels and six Chinese maritime militia vessels.” Manila’s ships were on a mission to distribute fuel and food supplies to fishermen near the shoal.

In late March, two Chinese coast guard vessels also fired water cannons against a Philippine supply boat near Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys, severely damaging the vessel and injuring some crew members.

--With assistance from Andreo Calonzo, Twinnie Siu and Lucille Liu.

(Updates with Chinese Foreign Ministry comment in seventh paragraph.)

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