Philippines: China rammed boat evacuating sick marine from disputed waters

Beijing claims it would allow extractions from the South China Sea outpost if given advance notice.
BenarNews staff
Philippines: China rammed boat evacuating sick marine from disputed waters This handout photo from a video released by the Philippine Coast Guard on June 7, 2024, shows China Coast Guard personnel allegedly blocking a Philippine ship evacuating a sick marine in the South China Sea on May 19.
Philippine Coast Guard

The Philippines on Friday accused China of blocking and ramming a boat carrying a sick marine being evacuated from its outpost in the South China Sea, calling the action “barbaric and inhumane.”

The alleged incident occurred on May 19, when the Philippine Coast Guard deployed a high-speed response boat to assist in evacuating a marine from Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal, said Commodore Jay Tarriela, coast guard spokesman for the West Philippine Sea. Manila calls South China Sea regions within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) the West Philippine Sea.

Tarriela said the alleged incident occurred over 15 nautical miles from the northeastern entrance of the shoal, where the Philippines maintains the BRP Sierra Madre, a World War II-era naval ship grounded in 1999 to serve as the country’s outpost.

“The barbaric and inhumane behavior displaced by the [China Coast Guard] has no place in our society,” Tarriela said in a statement. “What should have been a simple medical evacuation operation was subjected to harassment.”

The incident occurred on the same day that Chinese boats intercepted supplies being air-dropped to Filipino troops in the region, according to Philippine military chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. He claims the Chinese boats allegedly seized one of the four bags containing food and medicine and dumped the contents at sea.

Philippine officials did not say why they waited nearly three weeks to report on the incident nor did they provide an update on the marine’s condition.

Tarriela said the Philippine boat arrived at the rendezvous point on May 19, but China launched two small boats to harass it.

The Philippine boat was rammed “as we transferred the personnel from the Philippine Navy vessel,” he said, referring to the BRP Sierra Madre.

“Despite informing the CCG via radio and public address system about the humanitarian nature of our mission for medical evacuation, they still engaged in dangerous maneuvers and even intentionally rammed the [Philippine boat] while transporting the sick personnel,” he said using an acronym for the China Coast Guard.

Philippine marines fold a national flag on the BRP Sierra Madre, a marooned transport ship in the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, March 29, 2014. [Erik de Castro/Reuters]

The Philippine boat eventually managed to evade the Chinese vessels and the mission was completed, Tarriela said, adding the marine received critical medical care.

The actions of the Chinese “clearly demonstrated their intention to prevent the sick personnel from receiving proper medical attention he urgently needed,” he said.

China wants advance notification

Responding to the accusation, China’s foreign ministry said it could allow Manila to deliver necessary supplies and evacuate personnel from its grounded ship in the shoal if Beijing were notified in advance.

“However, the Philippines should not use this as an excuse for delivering construction materials in an attempt to permanently occupy Ren’ai Jiao,” spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters in Beijing, using the Chinese name for the shoal. 

The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to BenarNews requests for comment.

The incidents are the latest near the shoal where China has increased its patrols and accused the Philippines of bringing construction materials in violation of an earlier agreement. Manila denied the accusations and insisted that the shoal is within the country’s EEZ.

China claims almost all of the mineral-rich waterway while dismissing competing claims from the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam as well as Taiwan.

In 2016, an international arbitration court ruled in favor of the Philippines, throwing out China’s sweeping historical claims. Beijing has never accepted the decision.

Meanwhile, the Philippine military on Friday said it monitored two Chinese PLA Navy ships passing through the southern island of Basilan near Zamboanga peninsula in the south. The Philippine Navy said it dispatched ships to confront the Chinese warships.

“One of the vessels, Qi Jiquang (BN 83) responded that it was conducting normal navigation from its last port of call in Dili, Timor Leste, en route to Dalian, China,” the military’s Western Mindanao Command said in a statement. It said the incident occurred on Thursday.

The Philippine military “remains vigilant in monitoring all activities within our maritime zones and is committed to ensuring the safety and security of our waters,” it said. 

Located between the islands of Basilan and Mindanao in the Philippines, the Basilan Strait is recognized as an international sea lane, which allows for the “innocent passage” of ships from different countries under international maritime law.

“We continue to uphold international maritime laws while safeguarding our territorial integrity,” the Philippine military said.

Roel Pareño in Zamboanga City, southern Philippines, contributed to this report.


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