China Coast Guard expels two Philippine vessels that illegally intruded in waters off China's Huangyan Dao
Published: Apr 30, 2024 12:50 PM

The China Coast Guard (CCG) announced that it has expelled two Philippine vessels that illegally intruded in waters off China's Huangyan Dao (also known as Huangyan Island) in the South China Sea on Tuesday.

According to a briefing released by CCG via its WeChat account on Tuesday morning, the two Philippine vessels expelled by CCG were identified as Philippine coast guard vessel 4410 and official ship 3004.  

Gan Yu, a spokesperson for the CCG, said on Tuesday that after Philippine vessels ignoring China's repeated warning, the CCG has taken necessary measures such as following up, warning with water cannons, blocking and expelling illegal intrusions by Philippine vessels.

The on-site operation by the CCG has been reasonable, legitimate, professional, Gan said, noting that the behavior of the Philippine side infringed on the sovereignty of the Chinese side and seriously violated international law and the basic norms of international relations. The spokesperson urged the Philippines to immediately cease its illegal behavior.

China indisputably holds sovereignty over Huangyan Dao and its adjacent waters. The CCG has continued to conduct law enforcement activities to safeguard rights and enforce the law in China's jurisdictional waters, resolutely defending national sovereignty and maritime interests, Gan said.

According to video clips exclusively obtained by the Global Times from the CCG, Philippine official vessel 3004 was stopped by the CCG 12 nautical miles away from China's Huangyan Dao, while Philippine coast guard vessel 4410 tried to enter the lagoon on Huangyan Dao using a dangerous maneuver. The CCG was forced to use water cannons to warn the vessel, and this decisive move had an immediate effect, forcing vessel 4410 to leave the area.

A source close to the matter told the Global Times that the Philippines once again brought a large number of journalists on board with vessels for so-called "reporting" purposes. This is yet another indication that the illegal infringement by the Philippine side is a premeditated act of provocation.

Chen Xiangmiao, director of the World Navy Research Center at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times that professional control measures taken by the Chinese side are required to prevent the escalation of a possible maritime confrontation.

Since the second half of 2023, vessels from Philippine Navy, the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), under the guise of providing supplies to fishermen, have taken turns trying to forcibly intrude into the lagoon of China's Huangyan Dao, which has pushed Beijing and Manila on the brink of a repeat of the Huangyan Dao standoff in 2012.

If Philippine vessels achieve the objective of "intruding into the lagoon" on Huangyan Dao, the 2012 flashpoint will be repeated, Chen said. 

Photo: China Coast Guard

Photo: China Coast Guard

The Philippines' latest provocation came after senior officials from the current Marcos administration once again denied that China and the Philippines had reached a "gentleman's agreement" on the South China Sea. 

According to Chen, China's temporary special arrangement and the consensus and tacit understanding between China and the Philippines over a period of time in the past have spared the two countries the cost of frequent maritime confrontations and diplomatic rivalries and the negative spillover effects they generate, and thus provided a stable environment for Philippine fishermen's fishing activities near Huangyan Dao, representing a real "win-win" situation.

However, the Marcos administration's hardline policy, expansionist tendency and duplicity have compromised the tacit understanding between China and the Philippines and greatly weakened the foundation of mutual political trust, which is tantamount to driving history backwards, Chen noted.  

Amid ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez recently claimed that he is expecting the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to be fully ready in its defense posture against "any threats" in the region by the end of the term of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, especially with the help of the US.

The Philippines provocation also coincide with the ongoing Balikatan, or 'shoulder-to-shoulder' drills between US and Philippines, which took place outside of the Philippines' 12 nautical miles so-called "territorial waters."

Analysts said that the Philippines' repeated provocations relating to Huangyan Dao also reflected the Marcos Jr. administration's tendency to "rely on the US for self-importance" and "leverage its strength" on the South China Sea issue.

The Philippines is using its actions on Huangyan Dao as an important point of leverage to collaborate the US "Indo-Pacific strategy" to contain China, Chen said. 

However, while this behavior may win praise from Washington, the frequent and tense confrontations are a huge drain on the military, marine police and diplomatic energies of Manila, and it has no value other than a waste of economic inputs that raise the risk of unforeseen scenarios at sea, Chen said. 

While the leaders of China and the Philippines have repeatedly confirmed in their meetings that "the South China Sea issue is not the entirety of China-Philippines relations," the Marcos Jr. administration has made the Huangyan Dao a priority issue in its handling of relations with China, which seriously violates the consensus between the two countries, Chen said. 

If the Philippine side furthers its provocation, China has no option than to put in place upgraded control measures in order to prevent the situation from further escalation and safeguard its territorial sovereignty, Chen said.