Philippines, China trade accusations over South China Sea collision
The Philippines and China traded accusations on Sunday over a collision of their vessels near a disputed shoal in the South China Sea as tensions over claims in the vital waterway escalate, Reuters reports.
The Philippine coast guard accused China of firing water cannons and ramming resupply vessels and a coast guard ship, causing "serious engine damage" to one, while China's coast guard said the Philippine vessel intentionally rammed its ship.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual ship-borne commerce, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 said China's claims had no legal basis.
Beijing and Manila have been playing cat-and-mouse around the uninhabited Second Thomas Shoal in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone when the Philippines deploys resupply missions for Filipino soldiers living aboard an aging warship deliberately run aground in 1999 to protect Manila's maritime claims.
The shoal is part of what are known internationally as the Spratly Islands.
On Saturday, the Philippines accused China of "illegal and aggressive actions" by China for firing water cannon at a civilian-operated government fishing vessel, a move Beijing called legitimate "control measures".
In Sunday's incident, China's coast guard said in a statement that two Philippine vessels, ignoring repeated warnings, had "illegally entered the waters adjacent to Ren'ai Reef in the Nansha Islands without the approval of the Chinese government."