West Philippine Sea

PH says China ‘elevated’ tension in West Philippine Sea with Panatag Shoal harassment

Bea Cupin

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PH says China ‘elevated’ tension in West Philippine Sea with Panatag Shoal harassment

DAMAGE TO PHILIPPINES. The PCG sends to media a photo of the damage sustained by Philippine vessels in Panatag Shoal.

Philippine Coast Guard

China Coast Guard ships repeatedly hit Philippine vessels with their water cannons at close range off the waters of Panatag Shoal

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard’s spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea said Wednesday, May 1, that the China Coast Guard’s use of “jet stream pressure” in their water cannons elevated tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

Three China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels pointed their water cannons against two Philippine vessels en route to Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, a feature in the West Philippine Sea located just 120 nautical miles off the coast of Zambales.

“The China Coast Guard now has elevated the tension and the level of their aggression as well towards the Philippine Coast Guard vessel. This is the first time…that the coast guard vessel has been subject to a direct water cannon with that kind of pressure that even resulted in structural damage,” PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Commodore Jay Tarriela said at a press conference.

PH says China ‘elevated’ tension in West Philippine Sea with Panatag Shoal harassment

Tarriela noted that the water pressure was strong enough to bend the metal railings of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)’s BRP Bankaw. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)’s BRP Bagacay also got damaged.

“Jet-stream pressure” from the Chinese water cannons, said Tarriela, was roughly 200 PSI of pressure. Tarriela said, however, that China’s attack is still not considered an “armed attack.”

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. previously said that only the death of a serviceman – be it a soldier or uniformed personnel of the Philippines – would invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.

Both vessels are still fully functioning and remain in the vicinity of Panatag Shoal to fulfill its mission – bringing fuel, food, and drinking water to small-scale Filipino fisherfolk.

Panatag Shoal, also known as Scarborough Shoal, is a high-tide elevation located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Sovereignty over the shoal has yet to be determined, although the feature is considered the common fishing ground of Filipino, Chinese, and Vietnamese fisherfolk.

China has rejected the 2016 Arbitral Award that deemed its sweeping claim of the South China Sea invalid. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.