Home News China dispatches dozens of ships to intercept Philippine protest fleet

China dispatches dozens of ships to intercept Philippine protest fleet

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China has dispatched dozens of coast guard and maritime militia ships to a disputed atoll in the South China Sea in a massive show of force aimed at blocking a civilian protest flotilla from the Philippines as tensions rise between the two countries. .

The Philippine group organized a flotilla of about 100 small fishing boats, led by five slightly larger vessels, saying it wanted to safeguard the country’s sovereignty claims. Scarborough ShoalIt is an atoll controlled by Beijing and is close to Manila.

But even before the Philippine fleet departed on Wednesday morning, China deployed a powerful contingent of much larger government warships to the region, a fearsome addition to its frequent assertions of control over vast swaths of sea far from the mainland. upgrade.

“I would say what we’re seeing this time is definitely something else,” director Ray Powell said. HaiguangAn organization that monitors the South China Sea. “I think the Chinese Coast Guard was worried that they would try to get too close, so they sent in overwhelming force.”

Confrontations and close encounters between Philippine Coast Guard or civilian vessels and larger Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels – these vessels used powerful water cannon Driving away Philippine ships – has become more frequent in the past two years. This time, Powell said, the scale of the Chinese presence and the large number of Filipino civilian vessels could make any encounter near the shoal more dangerous.

“If China decides they want to send a message that ‘we’ve had enough,’ the terrible thing you don’t want to see is one of these small Filipino fishing boats being hit by a water cannon, because that’s not going to end well,” “He said.

Rafaela David, one of the leaders artin itoA Philippine group coordinating the maritime protests said it would not stop them from trying to reach the atoll the Philippines calls Panatage Shoal. The fishing boats are expected to take about 20 hours to get there.

“We should normalize and formalize civilian access,” Ms. David told a news conference on Tuesday in the town of Portolan on the main Philippine island of Luzon. She said the number of protesting boats would show that Filipinos “will not be intimidated by a country as powerful as China.”

The group has a chance to break China’s control Scarborough ShoalLocated about 138 miles west of Luzon, it seemed like a long shot.

Powell said that as of Tuesday, China had deployed five coast guard ships and six maritime militia vessels near the shoal, and another 25 or so maritime militia vessels about 60 miles from Scarborough Shoal. Security Innovation at Stanford University. He added that this estimate does not include Chinese ships that do not carry automatic identification signaling devices, which would allow them to be tracked, or that have turned off their devices to “be plunged into darkness.”

Philippine Navy and Coast Guard officials said they were deploying ships to escort the Philippine civilian fleet.

Relations between Manila and Beijing have soured over the past two years over maritime disputes.

Since Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was elected president of the Philippines in 2022, he has restored relations with the United States and pushed back against China’s claims to shoals and outcrops near the Philippines. Beijing, in turn, has stepped up coast guard and maritime militia operations to defend its claims.

on Monday, China Coast Guard stated According to sources, China has started maritime rescue training near Huangyan Island (called Huangyan Island in Beijing) “to ensure the safety of personnel on board ships.”

Manila also has it Blame Beijing Steps taken to reverse Sabina Shoal, another controversial atoll Distance approximately 83 miles An artificial island was formed northwest of Palawan in the Philippines, and the coast guard and a navy ship were dispatched to the area. On Monday, Beijing denied the accusation.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that the Philippines has repeatedly spread rumors and deliberately slandered China in an attempt to mislead the international community. stated at a regular press conference in Beijing. “None of these attempts will be successful.”

Scarborough Shoal has been under Chinese control since Beijing wrested it from Manila in 2012 during a week-long standoff. Filipino fishermen have long worked the resource-rich shoals, but their access has since been restricted and sporadic.

In 2016, an international tribunal established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea rejected China’s broad claims in the South China Sea and ruled that the shoal was a traditional fishing ground for the Philippines, China and Vietnam. China ignored the ruling and continued to consolidate its control over much of the sea, including Scarborough Shoal.

Atin Ito, a Philippine fleet organization, is a coalition of religious activists, civil society groups and organizations representing fishermen.The name means “This is ours” and the organization has been dedicated to inspire the public Peace asserts Philippine sovereignty claims in what Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

Artin Ito hosted a Similar protests last year, sending ships to Second Thomas Shoal, a disputed atoll also known as Ayungan Reef controlled by Philippine Navy personnel from a stranded ship. But the ships turned back after being followed by Chinese vessels, which used water cannons on Philippine vessels trying to deliver supplies to the stranded vessels.

This time, Atinyito’s mission appears bigger, and potentially bolder. The group said it plans to deliver food and fuel to all Filipino fishing boats in the area. Along the way, the fleet also began dropping buoys with the words “WPS, Atin Ito” written on them – in other words, the West Philippine Sea is ours.

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