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China sees red, issues warning as Philippine activists sail towards disputed reef – Times of India

WorldChina sees red, issues warning as Philippine activists sail towards disputed reef - Times of India

NEW DELHI: Philippine activists have started a journey towards a contested reef in the South China Sea. This action has led China to warn Manila for allowing the civilian mission in the West Philippine Sea, which is a term used by Manila to refer to the waters in the South China Sea falling within its 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as reported by Voice of America.
A temporary fleet consisting of many fishing boats left the Philippines for Scarborough Shoal, an atoll that China took control of in 2012 even though it is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The convoy, along with a single Philippine Coast Guard vessel, sailed to place territorial buoys along the route and provide supplies to Filipino fishermen working near the shoal.
This journey occurred after a recent event in which a Philippine Coast Guard vessel was aimed at with water cannons by Chinese Coast Guard ships close to Scarborough Shoal, leading to harm to the Philippine ship.
Tensions have escalated between the two parties close to Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal. Another contested area where a Philippine warship was deliberately grounded to support the country’s assertions, as reported by Voice of America.
China claims control over most of the South China Sea, ignoring competing claims from neighboring nations such as the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Nevertheless, a tribunal in The Hague decided in 2016 against China’s assertions, a ruling that Beijing has refused to accept, as reported.
Meanwhile, China issued a strong warning to the Philippines, advising them to be careful not to abuse China’s kindness towards Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea. Beijing’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, emphasised that any infringement on China’s territorial sovereignty will be met with a response, according to Manila Standard.
Wang remembered an agreement made in 2016 that permitted Filipino fishermen to have restricted fishing rights near Huangyan Dao, under the supervision of China. He cautioned that in case the Philippines breaches this agreement, China will protect its rights and implement required actions as per the law.
“China made a goodwill arrangement in 2016 for Filipino fishermen to fish with a small number of small fishing boats in the adjacent waters of Huangyan Dao, while China continues to oversee and monitor relevant activities of the Filipino fishermen in accordance with the law,” Wang said during a press conference on Wednesday night.
The Filipino flotilla, which includes five commercial fishing ships and approximately 100 fishing boats, headed towards Bajo de Masinloc in the West Philippine Sea. The journey was anticipated to take three days. Unfortunately, their mission faced challenges when Chinese Coast Guard vessels were seen following the convoy, as reported.
China asserts that it has jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea, which includes Bajo de Masinloc, leading to increased tensions in the region.
Scarborough Shoal is located about 240 kilometers west of Luzon, the main island of the Philippines, and has been a potential hotspot since China annexed it in 2012.
China continues to assert control over vast portions of the South China Sea despite international rulings against its claims, which sets the stage for ongoing disputes with neighbouring countries.
Wang also noted that any repercussions resulting from the Philippines’ actions will solely be borne by the country. “If the Philippines abuses China’s goodwill and infringes upon China’s territorial sovereignty and jurisdiction, we will defend our rights and take countermeasures in accordance with the law,” the Chinese official warned, according to Manila Standard.

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