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Philippine Soldier Injured in Collision With Chinese Vessel

The deteriorating Philippine outpost at Second Thomas Shoal (file image courtesy AFP)
The deteriorating Philippine outpost at Second Thomas Shoal (file image courtesy AFP)

Published Jun 17, 2024 9:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Filipino soldier was injured in a collision between Philippine and Chinese government vessels at Second Thomas Shoal on Monday, according to local media and the U.S. embassy in Manila. 

Philippine news outlet GMA reports that one soldier was injured during a resupply and rotation mission for the outpost at Second Thomas Shoal, and the individual was medevaced for higher care. 

In what appears to be a new tactic, Chinese vessels attempted to tow Philippine resupply boats during the altercation, according to Manila's National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea. In a statement, China Coast Guard spokesperson Gan Yu claimed that Chinese forces also boarded and inspected three Philippine vessels. 

The attempted tow could represent an early attempt at carrying out an arrest: The China Coast Guard changed its official rules of engagement on Saturday, allowing its cutter crews to detain suspects for up to 60 days for alleged violations of Chinese law in Chinese-claimed waters. (China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea as its own, including a large swathe of the Philippine exclusive economic zone.)

The incident was initially reported by Chinese authorities, who accused the Philippine military of "illegally intruding" and initiating the collision, though Second Thomas Shoal is well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ). China Coast Guard cutters routinely shoulder and water-cannon Philippine government vessels within Philippine waters, despite international condemnation, and their actions have injured Philippine government personnel several times before. 

"We will not dignify the deceptive and misleading claims of the CCG. The main issue remains to be the illegal presence and actions of Chinese vessels within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, which infringes on our sovereignty," responded AFP spokesperson Col. Frances Padilla in a statement Monday. 

The National Task Force characterized the Chinese forces' actions as "illegal, aggressive and reckless." The AFP declined to provide any further details of the operation.

In a change from previous practice, the Philippine Coast Guard did not escort Monday's resupply operation. "As far as the PCG is concerned, we are not in a position to provide any details on this issue. This is not a PCG operation," said PCG spokesman Commodore Jay Tarriela, speaking to local media. 

Manila's allies criticized the China Coast Guard's blockade at Second Thomas Shoal and called for a peaceful resolution to the maritime boundary dispute. 

"The US condemns the PRC’s aggressive, dangerous maneuvers near Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, which caused bodily injury, damaged Philippine vessels, and hindered lawful maritime operations to supply food, water, and essential supplies to Philippine personnel within the Philippine exclusive economic zone," said US Ambassador to Manila MaryKay L. Carlson in a statement.  

"The EU expresses deep concern about the dangerous actions of the PRC near Second Thomas Shoal. These actions have caused harm, damaged Philippine vessels, and disrupted lawful maritime operations in the Philippine exclusive economic zone," said Ambassador Luc Véron, the EU's representative in Manila.