Filipinos protest China's blocking of supply boat-A A +A
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
DOZENS of Filipino left-wing activists have protested at China's consulate in Manila to protest the blocking by Chinese coast guard ships of a Philippine supply boat near a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.
About 60 members of the Akbayan group carried a mock tape measure during Wednesday's protest, yelling "China do you know how to measure?"
A Chinese coast guard ship dangerously crossed the bow of a Philippine government supply boat Saturday en route to the Second Thomas Shoal, where the Philippines has a ship outpost. Despite Chinese radio warnings for it to leave, the Philippine boat sneaked past the blockade and fulfilled its mission.
It was a rare close-up look at the tensions in the waters and the determination of both sides to press their claims. China's growing assertiveness is alarming smaller nations that have competing territorial claims and worrying the United States, which is neutral in the disputes but jockeying for influence with Beijing in the region.
Around one hour away from Second Thomas Shoal, where the detachment is based, a Chinese coast guard ship marked "1141" twice crossed the bow of the smaller Philippine vessel in an attempt to stop it from proceeding. Another tailed the Filipino boat.
The Chinese radioed the Filipinos, telling them to stop. "You will take full responsibility for the consequences of your action," the voice said in English.
"This is the Republic of the Philippines," Philippine navy Lt. Ferdinand Gato, who was in charge of the supply mission, replied. "We are here to provision the troops."
The marines on board the supply boat waved the "V" for peace sign toward the Chinese vessel.
The Filipino captain maneuvered his vessel to shallow waters where the Chinese ships couldn't sail to reach the marooned vessel, BRP Sierra Madre, which has become an awkward symbol of Philippine sovereignty in the remote offshore territory.
Protest leader Barry Gutierrez said China should measure the limits of its territory correctly and not bully its way into other countries' territories.
China claims almost the entire West Philippine Sea. The two countries were in a two-month standoff at the Scarborough Shoal to the north, which the Chinese eventually occupied after Philippine ships left the area because of a storm in 2012.
The Philippines has questioned China's claims before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.
Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims over the territory, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas and is also a major shipping lane. (AP)