June 24, 2024

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Manila says Chinese boats seized equipment for Philippine forces

Manila says Chinese boats seized equipment for Philippine forces

The Philippine military on Tuesday accused China of “aggressive and unprovoked interference” and said Chinese boats had illegally “seized” food and medicine from a Philippine outpost in the South China Sea.

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The alleged incident took place on May 19 near Second Thomas Atoll, part of the Spratly Islands, where Philippine troops intercepted a stranded naval vessel to defend Manila’s claim to the area.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and a series of incidents between Chinese and Philippine ships near reefs claimed by both countries has raised tensions.

The Philippine military accused China of “aggression and unprovoked interference” after two Chinese rigid-hull inflatable boats came within 10 meters of the stranded Sierra Madre boat and seized a package dropped by air and meant for Philippine troops.

According to the army, this is the first time such a seizure has been made by Chinese boats.

“This act of seizing or confiscating our equipment is illegal,” Philippine Army Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Browner told reporters. “Even in times of war, we must not confiscate another country’s exports.”

Philippine Navy spokesman Roy Vincent Trinidad said Chinese crew members on the boats threw the seized items into the water.

The military could not specify whether the boats belonged to the Coast Guard or the Chinese Navy.

The second Thomas Reef is about 200 kilometers from Palawan Island in the western Philippines and 1,000 kilometers from the Chinese island of Hainan.

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While Philippine resupply missions are normally carried out by sea, last month they were carried out by air to avoid Chinese “resistance” or “harassment”, General Browner said.

He, however, denied reports that Philippine troops aboard the Sierra Madre had pointed their weapons at the Chinese boats.

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

Beijing has brushed aside the claims of the Philippines and other countries, defying international rulings that its position is not based on law, and claims almost the entire South China Sea.