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8 Navy soldiers hurt in clash with Chinese

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Guns seized, rubber boats punctured

Chinese maritime forces injured eight Philippine Navy soldiers, one seriously, and seized their guns in a violent encounter in the waters surrounding Ayungin Shoal.

The Filipino soldiers were part of a group delivering much-needed supplies to the crew of the marooned BRP Sierra Madre when their rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) was rammed by a larger Chinese vessel.

The military confirmed the incident hours after the media broke the story. It was unclear however whether the incident was the same one wherein the Chinese rammed a resupply boat headed for BRP Sierra Madre.

“A Philippine Navy personnel sustained severe injury after the CCG’s (China Coast Guard’s) intentional high-speed ramming during the rotation and resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre (LS57) on June 17,” it said in a statement.

It also said that the injured navy personnel “has been safely evacuated and received prompt medical treatment.”

The statement however did not give further details about the encounter – the first time that Philippine soldiers were involved in a clash with Chinese forces surrounding the contested shoal.

According to a report by China Daily, the incident happened on Monday, June 17.

CCG spokesperson Gan Yu defended the actions of the Coast Guard, stating that they were simply enforcing regulations under the law. These actions involved issuing warnings, boarding and inspecting Philippine vessels and forcefully evicting them.

Gan described CCG’s actions as “reasonable, lawful, professional, and standardized.”

“We once again sternly warn the Philippine side: any form of infringement or provocation is futile,” Gan said, according to China Daily/

The announcement also highlighted a newly enacted administrative regulation by China. This regulation allows for the detention of foreign vessels that enter China’s territorial or inland waters illegally, provided there is authorization from a city-level or higher coast guard official.

President Ferdinand Marcos has called China’s new policy in the West Philippine Sea worrisome, noting the measure would only escalate the tension in the region.

“The new policy of threatening to detain our own citizens, that is different. That is an escalation of the situation. So, yes, it is now very worrisome,” the President said.

Meanwhile, a maritime expert said on Tuesday that if the Navy and PCG were hurt due to aggressive behavior, the Philippines would have the power to call on any nearby assets for assistance as part of the mutual defense treaty between Manila and Washington.

“If the Coast Guard and the Navy in intervening are themselves subject to some kind of attack or aggressive behavior, under the MDT, they can call any nearby US assets for assistance,” the Director of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and Laws on the Seas, Jay Batongbacal explained.

Moreover, Batongbacal said under the MDT, any use of a device that could harm or cause damages is considered an attack, which would engage the mutual defense treaty obligations.

The Second Thomas Shoal, known in Manila as Ayungin Shoal, lies about 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the western Philippine island of Palawan and more than 1,000 kilometers from China’s nearest major landmass, Hainan island.

Beijing claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea, brushing aside competing claims from several Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines and an international ruling that its stance has no legal basis.

In July 2016, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s nine-dash claims over the South China Sea and acknowledged the Philippines’ sovereign rights within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. Beijing persists in disregarding the international ruling and remains assertive through the deployment of numerous militia vessels in the contested regions. With AFP

Editor’s Note: This is an updated article. Originally posted with the headline 8 Filipino soldiers hurt, disarmed by Chinese forces in Ayungin Shoal

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