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The Philippines recently summoned a Chinese envoy to address what they perceived as “aggressive actions” by the China Coast Guard and other vessels near a reef off the Southeast Asian country’s coast. This incident is just one of many in a long history of maritime territorial disputes between Beijing and Manila in the South China Sea. The confrontation occurred near Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands during a routine mission to resupply Filipino troops stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded navy ship. The China Coast Guard reportedly blockaded the Philippine supply vessel and caused damage with water cannons, resulting in injuries to three soldiers.

China has defended their actions, citing them as a necessary response to a foreign vessel attempting to intrude into their waters. The embassy of China in the Philippines also submitted a complaint to Manila, accusing the Southeast Asian country’s ships of illegal entry into Chinese waters. Second Thomas Shoal is located 200km from Palawan, Philippines, and over 1,000km from Hainan island, China’s nearest major landmass. Manila expressed their strong objection to the aggressive actions taken by the China Coast Guard and Chinese Maritime Militia against their resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal, known locally as Second Thomas Shoal.

The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines contacted both the Chinese embassy in Manila and the Philippine embassy in Beijing to convey their protest against the presence of Chinese vessels in Ayungin Shoal and the Philippine exclusive economic zone. The Philippines emphasized that China has no legal right to be in Ayungin Shoal and demanded the immediate withdrawal of Chinese ships from the area. Recent clashes in the same location have involved water cannon usage and collisions between Chinese and Filipino vessels, escalating tensions between the two countries.

These incidents are part of a broader pattern of disputes in the South China Sea, where multiple countries have overlapping territorial claims. China’s expansive claims in the region, including the construction of artificial islands and military installations, have been a major point of contention with its neighboring countries. The Philippines has sought international arbitration to challenge China’s claims, leading to a 2016 ruling by a tribunal in The Hague that favored Manila. However, China has rejected the tribunal’s decision and continued to assert its sovereignty over disputed territories in the region, leading to ongoing tensions in the area.

The Philippines has strengthened its defense capabilities in response to these maritime disputes, including closer security ties with the United States and other allies. The presence of American warships in the region has been seen as a deterrent against Chinese aggression, although it has also drawn criticism from Beijing. The US has urged the parties involved to resolve their disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law. The recent incident near Second Thomas Shoal is just one example of the complex challenges faced by countries in the South China Sea, as they navigate competing territorial claims and geopolitical interests in the region. Diplomatic efforts to address these disputes are ongoing, but the situation remains volatile and unpredictable.

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