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Seven others injured in China Coast Guard ramming incident

The Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau and China coast guard vessel 2102 steam alongside each other during the transfer of the fishing vessel Yin Yuan in the North Pacific Ocean June 3, 2014. . (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau)
June 21, 2024

A Philippine Navy sailor had his thumb severed while several naval personnel sustained minor injuries after a resupply mission at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, military sources confirmed on Tuesday.

The injuries were due to a ramming incident between China Coast Guard (CCG) and Filipino boats during the resupply mission for the troops of BRP Sierra Madre on Monday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad also confirmed that one of the naval personnel suffered “severe injury” but did not further elaborate.

“A Philippine Navy personnel sustained severe injury after the CCG’s intentional high-speed ramming,” Trinidad said in a statement.

Trinidad, however, assured that “the injured personnel have been safely evacuated and received prompt medical treatment.”

‘Control measures’

Aside from ramming, it was reported that CCG used water cannons and boarded Philippine vessels.

However, the CCG deemed its moves as “control measures” in line with its claim of sovereignty in almost the entire South China Sea, including most of the West Philippine Sea, despite a 2016 international tribunal ruling that effectively dismissed its claims stemming from a case filed by Manila in 2013.

The regular resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre grounded in Ayungin since 1999 has become one of the flashpoints of tension between Manila and Beijing in the West Philippine Sea.

This is not the first time in which China’s actions caused injuries to Philippine naval personnel. The water cannon assault of CCG last March 23 also seriously injured three Navy personnel.

Security expert Chester Cabalza said China’s actions show that it has “harmful intentions” in view of its ongoing anti-trespassing rule which encroaches on the West Philippine Sea.

“This is very intense in such a way that we are seeing harmful intentions coming from China,” Cabalza told reporters in an online interview.

“They are now very aggressive in such a way that they are showing their teeth when it comes to the enforcement of the no trespassing law,” he added.

Invoke Mutual Defense Treaty?

Cabalza said it may not be time to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between Manila and Washington, saying other options could be explored.

“Based on the recent incident, the MDT might not be invoked yet because we don’t want to start any war. We still have remedies that we should look into, like diplomacy,” Cabalza said.

The MDT states that an armed attack in the Pacific, including anywhere in the South China Sea, on either of their public vessels, aircraft, or armed forces — which includes their Coast Guards — would invoke mutual defense commitments between Manila and Washington.

However, Cabalza said that the MDT should be invoked if CCG started to board the BRP Sierra Madre.

“When they (CCG personnel) board the BRP Sierra Madre, it means they want to occupy the Philippine territory,” Cabalza said. “If that happens, we should invoke the MDT.”

“Even if there is no armed attack, that is a direct occupation and direct invasion,” he added. “The AFP and its allies should prepare for this scenario.”


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