World News

BBC on boat chased down by China in South China Sea

  • Author, Jonathan Head
  • Role, Southeast Asia Correspondent
  • Report of the South China Sea

We could see the larger Chinese ship approaching, both our ships moving at high speed. The Chinese crew was close enough that we could see their faces. Two of them filmed us, as we filmed them.

The BBC was on board the Philippine Coast Guard vessel BRP Bagacay when it was docked by Chinese vessels on Tuesday.

Filipino crews rushed to hang yellow foam barriers over the side, bracing for a collision. Suddenly, the Chinese ship made a sharp turn in front of our bow, forcing the Filipino captain to slow down abruptly. The two ships were less than five meters apart.

We were running towards Scarborough Shoal, a small coral atoll located 220 km west of the Philippine coast, but also claimed by China.

Legend, Chinese coast guard officers filmed BBC crew

The Chinese ships were determined to stop us, and there were many of them – at one point there were around ten belonging to the coast guard and maritime militia.

The Filipino captain relied on the speed and maneuverability of his Japanese-made ship to outrun the Chinese and came within 600 m of the shoal, the closest yet, we were told. he explains.

But there was a new barrier installed recently by the Chinese, barely visible underwater. Their ships were right behind us, two positioning themselves on either side of the Filipino ship, at which point they began firing their powerful water cannon.

We were rushed inside, where we could hear the jets of water thundering against the metal walls of the ship. They broke the awning at the back and mutilated a railing on one side.

The second ship in our convoy, carrying supplies for Filipino fishermen, was more seriously damaged, having suffered 10 direct hits from the water cannon.

This game of maritime cat and mouse is not new in the South China Sea. But these clashes have become more frequent and serious since President Bongbong Marcos authorized the coast guard to challenge China’s presence in disputed areas with much more vigor than in the past.

Legend, Several Chinese coast guard ships follow the boat

“The Chinese government has always said there is a red line,” said Commodore Jay Tarriela, coast guard spokesman for the West Philippine Sea, the Filipino name for the areas it claims.

“They said we couldn’t cross the 12 nautical mile limit from the shoal. But under this administration, we have already broken that red line, to show that China does not respect international law. »

The mission we are participating in is part of this stronger response.

Officially, its goal was to provide food and fuel to Filipino fishermen who have worked on Scarborough Shoal for decades, but who have complained of constant harassment since the Chinese coast guard took control of it in 2012.

It was also to demonstrate the Philippines’ determination to assert its claims to the shoal, located in the country’s legally recognized exclusive economic zone and much closer to the Philippines than to China.

An international court ruling in 2016 declared that major elements of China’s claims in the South China Sea – such as its nine-dash line as well as a number of activities in Philippine waters – were illegal. China says it does not recognize the decision.

Legend, Philippine Coast Guard monitored Chinese ships

The number of Chinese ships visible around the shoal was intimidating. We could see them in every direction, vastly outnumbering anything the Philippines could deploy.

“We are David to their Goliath,” Commodore Tarriela said.

It is difficult to see where this new policy from President Marcos will lead, although he has received strong support from US President Joe Biden and has intensified a long-term modernization program for the armed forces.

The Chinese ships were clearly skilled in their tactics, however risky they were. They can probably maintain their blockade almost indefinitely.

After our meeting with their ships, China issued a statement that it had successfully driven out the Philippine ships, which it accused of entering its territorial waters.

It is true that the BRP Bagacay withdrew from Scarborough Shoal after being hit by water cannons from both sides. The second ship, with the supplies and much of its damaged electronic equipment, was still surrounded by Chinese ships more than 20 km behind us, so our ship returned to help.

But both ships remained at sea, outside China’s “red line”, but still well within its famous “nine-dash line”, demarcating its vast claim to almost the entire China Sea southern.

In the morning, dozens of fishing boats gathered around us to receive their help. From a distance, a Chinese coast guard ship watched. With what it sees as China’s intimidation tactics once again exposed, the Philippine Coast Guard considers this mission successfully accomplished.

Legend, Fishermen approached the boat to receive help from the Philippine Coast Guard.

News Source :
Gn world

jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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