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South China Sea: Filipino fishermen recall harassment done by Chinese militia vessels in disputed waters
Around this time five years ago, an international arbitration ruled against the sweeping claims made by China over almost the entire South China Sea. As tensions remain between China and the surrounding countries, Filipino fishermen have recalled incidents where they were reportedly harassed by Chinese vessels manned by militia in the waters.
A Filipino fisherman named Randy Megu shared his experience of fishing in the South China Sea, revealing that incursions done by Chinese militia vessels have become more frequent than before. Megu described how his boat was being tracked down by a Chinese vessel for three hours 260 kilometers off the coast back in May. Megu went on to share that other Filipino fishermen reportedly experienced being rammed or blasted with water cannons while they worked in the region.
China looked to secure its self-proclaimed sovereignty over the South China Sea until the international arbitration rejected their claims. China’s foreign ministry has since maintained its claims and rejecting the ruling made by the tribunal. The communist nation’s claims to almost the entire ocean were through its so-called nine-dash line, which clashes with overlapping claims made by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
This is the latest report from an incident back in March, where the Philippines protested against the incursions of Chinese vessels suspected to be manned by militia. Over 200 Chinese vessels were seen within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ. China responded, saying that the vessels were not manned by militia but were only seeking shelter from the rough seas.
As of July 2020, a poll showed that 70 percent of Filipinos want Manila to further assert its claim over its part of the South China Sea.
The US has also stepped up its presence over the South China Sea to deter China’s further shows of aggression towards the surrounding countries. US President Joe Biden has also continued to support his predecessor Donald Trump’s rejection of China’s sweeping claims over the waters. The US also warned China that any attack it makes on the Philippines in the region would result in Washington responding under its mutual defense treaty.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement reaffirming the policy of his predecessor Mike Pompeo. Blinken accused China of intimidation and coercion of southeast Asian countries, threatening freedom of navigation in the waters.