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The Philippines-China Sea Claims Conflict: A Tense Face-Off

by Joshua Brown
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Recently, while on the BRP Malabrigo sailing vessel, a Chinese coast guard ship stopped a patrol vessel from the Philippines from entering a dangerous area known as a shoal in the South China Sea. This nearly caused an accident and is seen as another example of forceful behaviour by Beijing.

On Sunday, there was a standoff between a Filipino coast guard ship called the BRP Malapascua and a bigger Chinese ship close to Second Thomas Shoal in an area of the sea that is currently being disputed by many different countries. This happened during a patrol that lasted for around one week to protect this seaway’s sovereignty.

The Philippine coast guard asked some journalists, including three from Big Big News, to take part of a 1,670 km (1,038 miles) long patrol mission. This is to show the world China’s bad behaviors in the South China Sea where over $5 trillion worth of cargo goes through every year.

On a very hot day, the Malapascua and another Philippine coast guard boat called the BRP Malabrigo went out to patrol. They were looking for any signs of illegal activity among islands, islets and reefs that are owned or claimed by the Philippines.

Philippine patrol vessels received radio warnings from the Chinese coast guard and navy in both Chinese and English, telling them to leave parts of China they said were “theirs” or face some kind of punishment. On Sunday morning, there was a lot of trouble at the Second Thomas Shoal, which is controlled by the Philippines.

As two patrol vessels traveled towards the shoal’s turquoise blue waters to do an underwater search, the Chinese coast guard warned them through radio to go away from that area. This place is around 121 miles (194 kilometers) away from Palawan, which is an island in Philippines.

After a few radio conversations, a person from Chinese Coastguard got angry and warned about some sort of bad stuff if they did not leave.

The Chinese speaker said, “If you don’t listen to our warning, we will have to take some more steps to make sure you do and whatever happens after that is your responsibility.”

A big Chinese ship suddenly came close to two smaller ships, the Malapascua and the Malabrigo. The Captain of Malapascua, Captain Rodel Hernandez, tried to steer away from it, but the big ship blocked their path and stopped them from moving forward. To avoid a collision, Captain Hernandez made an emergency stop and reversed his ship’s direction.

Filipino personnel aboard the vessels, including journalists who took pictures, were all scared and quiet. But thankfully the Malapascua ship steered away in time to prevent an accident.

Mr. Hernandez then told the journalists that the Chinese coast guard had done a very dangerous move – it wasn’t following any of the rules for avoiding collisions. So he ordered everyone to leave just to be safe from harm.

At night, a big Chinese military boat followed two Philippine boats that were close to Subi Reef. In the past ten years, Subi has been changed into an island with missiles protecting it. The Chinese people said to the Philippines people on their radio “get out now!”. The coast guard spoke back to them on their radio to say they have rights in this area and quickly moved away.

China wants the Philippines to take away the navy ship called BRP Sierra Madre. The ship was intentionally left on a shoal in 1999 and is a reminder of Manila’s claim to the island. Chinese ships often stop supplies from going to the few Filipino sailors aboard this navy ship, just like what happened recently.

At Whitsun Reef, which belongs to the Philippines, Philippine patrol vessels noticed around 100 boats from China line up near one another. China claims these large boats are for fishing but the Philippine coast guard suspects they’re really there to spy or prepare for a later project.

Two motor boats belonging to the Filipino coast guard sailed near Chinese ships and asked them to leave, but none of the Chinese ships moved. Philippine officials didn’t want journalists to tell anyone about this trip right away so they could keep the mission safe and inform government people in charge of the territorial issues.

The Philippines knows that China is much stronger, so they just started a plan to make people know about their wrong behavior. They are hoping that by raising awareness and by people criticizing them, China will follow the international rules.

The Philippines coast guard said their plan is working, making the Chinese ambassador in Manila hold a news conference to defend Beijing’s actions. This was after a video showed that in February, one of the Chinese coast guard ships had aimed a strong laser at a Filipino boat near Second Thomas Shoal, blinding two crew members temporarily.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have been fighting for a long time over who controls some of the islands in the South China Sea. The United States is not trying to take any of the islands but it has sent its navy and air force for patrols and war games with other countries in the area. The United States says this will help protect freedom of movement and make sure that no country has too much power over the region.

Beijing isn’t happy with an agreement from the Philippines and USA that lets American troops move into more Filipino military camps. China thinks this will let US have bases and watch posts in Northern Philippines near Taiwan, which China says it owns, and some places facing the South China Sea, which Beijing claims all for itself.

The United States has said that it will help the Philippines if it gets attacked in the South China Sea. However, this area is full of conflicts and with all the incredible nature surrounding them, Captain Julio Colarina III wants to try avoid these troubles as much as possible.

He said we have to try not to cause fights in this area, because it may only take one wrong thing for everything to start an argument. Joeal Calupitan and Aaron Favila wrote this piece of news for Associated Press. To stay informed about what’s going on in the Asia-Pacific region, head over to https://bigbignews.net/asia-pacific

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