The Sunday, 22 October 2023 collision incident in the South China Sea builds resistance between China and the Philippines. Both countries blame each other for the disturbance and add to the flame of maritime regional tensions.
Philippine accuses Chinese Coast Guard Ship of “dangerous blocking maneuvers” that led it to collide with a Philippine vessel carrying supplies to troops stationed in Ayungin Shoal, in the Spratly Islands chain.
Manila task force officials accused that China’s move was “provocative, irresponsible and illegal” and “imperiled the safety of the crew” of the Philippine boats.
In a second incident, the Philippine task force said a Chinese maritime militia vessel collided with a Philippine Coast Guard ship, which was on the same mission to resupply the BRP Sierra Madre. The Philippines have repeatedly accused China of knowingly trying to block its resupply missions and threatening its sovereignty.
Later with the ongoing tension between China and the Philippines, Manila summoned China’s ambassador to the Philippines and filed a strong diplomatic protest against Beijing.
What is the South China Sea issue?
The South China Sea is an important part of the western Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia. It is south of China, east and south of Vietnam, west of the Philippines, and north of the island of Borneo. The sea is connected by the Taiwan Strait with the East China Sea and by the Luzon Strait with the Philippine Sea.
By calculating the clockwise locating of the countries, the People’s Republic of China is in the North followed by the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The South China Sea strategically holds tremendous importance it is the connecting link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean (Strait of Malacca).
The claim for sovereign rights of countries over the islands of the South China Sea has been disputed.
Islands claimed by countries –
- The Paracel Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
- The Spratly Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Philippines.
- The Scarborough Shoal is claimed by the Philippines, China, and Taiwan.
Despite all this tension, China claims sovereign rights on nearly all islands of the sea. Since the year 2010, China has been converting some of the uninhabited islets (like Haven Reef, Johnson South Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef) into artificial islets to bring them under the International Convention, UNCLOS.
China has been repeatedly changing the size and structure of these reefs by modifying their physical land features. It has also established separate airstrips on Parcel and Spratly. Looking at all these, Chinese fishing fleets are especially engaged in paramilitary work on behalf of the state rather than the commercial enterprise of fishing.
On the other side, the USA is very critical of this building of artificial islands by China and strictly terms these actions of China as building a ‘great wall of sand’.
The new tension building up in the region could be dangerous for world peace looking to other issues like the Israel-Hamas war and Russia-Ukraine war. People certainly cannot handle another conflict.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea which includes the exclusive economic zones of countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. This is not acceptable to these nations.
The 2016 proceeding of the Permanent Court of Arbitration said that the line on China’s maps had no legal basis and condemned China’s actions in the South China Sea.
Both Philippines and China have to diplomatically solve the issue and work toward collaborative work in the South China Sea region without escalating any future dispute.