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South China Sea: Philippine and Chinese Vessels Collide in Contested Waters

Bilateral relations between the Philippines and China have remarkably developed in recent years; however, it remains questionable whether things will continue the same way. The Philippines and China relations are known to be collaboratively ongoing, yet there is also a lot of mutual mistrust that has been reflected to the entire world.

In 2016, the Philippines’ former president, Rodrigo Duterte, moved the Philippines away from the United States of America which had been their long-time ally by expressing his intent about growing closer ties with China in 2016, to the community of the Philippines. The government of China delightfully accepted this idea, as it also aimed to increase its impact on the Philippines and the region of China itself. By developing closer relations with the Philippines, they’re also challenging the United States of their influence on the South China Sea. Regardless of Duterte’s stance, both the general public and the Armed Forces of the Philippines favor the USA over China. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2014, this is because 93% of Filipinos are concerned that territorial disputes between China and its neighboring countries could result in an armed confrontation. Their love towards the USA is mainly because of their longstanding friendship. It is understandable how they didn’t want to switch sides. Also the citizens of the Philippines are aware that the only reason why China wants to get closer with them is because they want to gain bigger control over the South China Sea.

Most recently, a Philippine boat and a Chinese ship collided in the South China Sea, furthering the dispute between the two countries. The Philippines accused China of using water cannons to obstruct three of its vessels; this was a day after they claimed that China had “harassed, blocked, and executed dangerous maneuvers.” It is a known fact that the South China Sea has been at the center of a territorial dispute between the Philippines, China, and other countries surrounding it. The main reasons behind the conflict within the nations are the desire to protect maritime stock rights, explore and potentially extract natural gas reserves and crude oil that are lying beneath the seabed, and maintain strategic control over key shipping lanes. Due to the problems that come with these continuing disagreements over ship traffic, maritime security arises as a major concern.

It was declared by the Philippines on Sunday, December 10th that China had reportedly attacked civilian supply ships in the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands, which serves as a flashpoint between itself and the Philippines. According to a statement released by the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, a Chinese coast guard ship “rammed” one of the two boats containing provisions while also accusing China of causing substantial damage to the engine of one boat upon utilizing the water cannon. However, the China Coast Guard firmly declined these assertions and also charged the Philippine boat with “deliberately colliding” with the Chinese ship after disregarding their “multiple stern warnings.” Additionally, the organizer of a convoy of civilian boats planning to deliver Christmas gifts and supplies of food to Filipino fishermen and troops in the South China Sea said that they aborted the trip because of “constant shadowing” by Chinese ships.

The disagreement between the Philippines and China date back to a long time ago and it’s visible that their old fights are influencing some of their choices now. For example, the fact that a huge amount of Filipinos prefer the USA over China affects their reputation a lot, therefore we can see them trying to change that perception. However they haven’t done anything to improve the thoughts of the Philippines’ residents, they can’t expect much.

Right now, it’s not possible to predict where this debate will continue but other countries that own part of the South China Sea think the Philippines is right in the matter. The Philippines has strong allies standing with them but thankfully, still hasn’t used that power to provoke China. One of the two sides will have to wave the green flag and come to an agreement for this conflict to end but it looks like none of them will be letting go easily.

Here is the link to the footage where Chinese ships fire water at smaller Philippine vessels.

Works Cited:

BBC News, World Asia, Accessed 11 Dec. 2023

Vikipedi, Çin-Filipinler İlişkileri, Accessed 11 Dec. 2023

Vikipedi, Güney Çin Denizi Toprak Anlaşmazlıkları, Accessed 13 Dec. 2023


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