MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ coast guard (PCG) on Sunday accused China of “dangerous and blocking” maneuvers while its vessel patrolled near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea this month.
Manila’s coast guard said in a statement that on a nine-day patrol near the shoal by its 97-metre (318-foot) vessel BRP Teresa Magbanua, four Chinese coast guard (CCG) vessels had shadowed the boat more than 40 times.
Four Chinese maritime militia vessels were also present near the shoal, the PCG said.
The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the accusations. The embassy was shut for the weekend.
Located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Scarborough shoal is also claimed by China, making it one of Asia’s most contested maritime features and a flashpoint for flare-ups.
The PCG said its vessel was in the area to protect Filipino fishermen “from further harassment” in their traditional fishing ground.
“The CCG vessels performed dangerous and blocking maneuvers at sea against BRP Teresa Magbanua four times, with the CCG vessels crossing the bow of the PCG vessel twice,” it said, adding that the Chinese vessels had “recklessly” disregarded international rules on preventing collisions at sea.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion in annual ship commerce. Its territorial claims overlap with the EEZs of the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s claims had no legal basis, a decision Beijing has rejected.
(Reporting by Mikhail Flores; Editing by Sonali Paul)