Philippine military chief demands China pay $1M in damages for clash

Official claims China Coast Guard personnel damaged Philippine boats, seized firearms in encounter near Second Thomas Shoal.
Jason Gutierrez
Philippine military chief demands China pay $1M in damages for clash This frame grab from a handout video released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office shows China Coast Guard personnel (center) appearing to wield bladed weapons during an incident off Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, June 17, 2024.

UPDATED at 7:25 a.m. ET on 2024-07-04

The Philippines’ military chief on Thursday demanded that China pay 60 million pesos (U.S. $1 million) in damages incurred during a violent confrontation between its coast guard and Filipino troops in the South China Sea last month.

China Coast Guard personnel, armed with pikes and machetes, punctured Philippine boats and seized firearms in the June 17 incident near Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin and called Ren’ai Jiao by Beijing, Gen. Romeo Brawner claimed during in news conference in Manila.

One Filipino sailor lost a finger in the clash, the third such encounter this year in which Philippine personnel have been hurt on missions to rotate and resupply troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal.

“I demanded the return of seven firearms that were taken by the Chinese coast guard,” Brawner said. “They destroyed our equipment and when we estimated the cost of the damage, it’s 60 million pesos.”

The compensation does not include the cost of surgery for the Filipino soldier who lost a finger, said Brawner, who outlined his demand for compensation in a letter to Beijing.

Brawner made the comments after a command conference between military officials and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in which security challenges and threats facing the Southeast Asian nation were discussed.

Marcos called for de-escalation of tension with China in the South China Sea, the Philippine military chief said. However, rotation and resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre would continue, Brawner said. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said the incident occurred because Philippine ships violated her nation’s sovereignty.

“The Philippine vessels were carrying out an illegal ‘resupply mission’ which violated China’s territorial waters and staging a provocation when stopped by China Coast Guard, who acted lawfully and rightfully to defend China’s sovereignty. The Philippine side should face the consequences of its own action,” she told reporters in Beijing on Thursday.

“We urge the Philippines to stop the infringement activities and provocations, and return to the right track of properly handling differences through dialogue and consultation.”

On Tuesday, Manila and Beijing agreed to reduce hostilities “without prejudice to their respective positions” at a regular bilateral meeting.

China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes each year, putting it at odds with the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Taiwan. 

In 2016, an international tribunal refuted the legal basis for nearly all of China’s expansive maritime and territorial claims in the waterway. It said that Beijing’s insistence on holding “historic rights” to the waters were inconsistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS.

Beijing has never recognized the 2016 arbitration or its outcome.

This story has been updated to include comments from a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.


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