Filipino Scientists Blocked by Chinese Vessel from Accessing South China Sea Reef

The scientists aimed to conduct research on the reef's marine life and environmental conditions.
  • bureau
  • 05:19 AM, March 23, 2024
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Filipino Scientists Blocked by Chinese Vessel from Accessing South China Sea Reef
Chinese Coast Guard vessel allegedly blocks Philippine government vessel near Sandy Cay, SCS @Philippine Coast Guard

Filipino scientists were obstructed by a Chinese vessel on as they attempted to access a reef in the disputed South China Sea.

The incident, which occurred on Thursday near Sandy Cay, several kilometers from the Philippine-held Thitu Island in the Spratly Islands, has heightened tensions in the region.

The Philippine Coast Guard has accused the Chinese vessel of engaging in "dangerous maneuvers" in an apparent attempt to block the Filipino scientists from reaching the reef. Commodore Jay Tarriela, spokesman for the Philippine Coast Guard, revealed that a boat belonging to the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources was transporting the scientists to conduct research when the Chinese vessel intercepted them, coming as close as 100 meters. Tarriela further stated that the Chinese vessel sounded a siren for over 30 minutes, seemingly to alert other Chinese maritime militia boats in the area.

However, the China Coast Guard has refuted the allegations, claiming that 34 Filipinos had "illegally" landed on the reef, which the Philippines refers to as Pagasa Cay 2. Chinese officials asserted that their law enforcement officers landed on the reef to conduct an investigation.

Despite the obstruction, the Filipino scientific team managed to spend four hours at two reefs and complete their mission, according to Tarriela. The mission was led by University of the Philippines marine biologist Jonathan Anticamara, who reported concerning findings about the state of the reefs. Anticamara noted "unnatural" and "wide" piles of rubble taller than a person at Sandy Cay, raising environmental concerns.

The South China Sea has long been a flashpoint for territorial disputes, with China asserting almost exclusive control over the region despite opposition from neighboring countries like the Philippines and a ruling by an international tribunal invalidating China's claims. China's extensive land reclamation activities in the Spratly Islands, which have transformed reefs into artificial islands housing military facilities, have further escalated tensions in the area.

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