Manila says the Chinese coast guard fired water cannons at Philippine ships in the disputed South China Sea.

The Philippines has accused China’s coast guard of using water cannons to “obstruct” three government boats carrying out their regular resupply mission near a reef off the coast in the South China Sea.

Saturday’s incident occurred near Scarborough Reef, which is claimed by both countries and which Beijing captured from Manila in 2012 after a months-long standoff. The islands lie approximately 220 km (137 miles) off the coast of the Philippines and fall within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under international maritime law.

Videos released by the Philippine Coast Guard showed Chinese Coast Guard ships hitting the ships with violent blasts of water.

The Philippine South China Sea Task Force, a multi-agency government agency, said in a statement that water cannons were used at least eight times on Saturday and accused the Chinese coast guard of “directly and deliberately” targeting the ships.

Three Fisheries Bureau boats were on a supply mission to deliver oil and food to more than 30 Philippine fishing vessels near Scarborough Shoal.

“Preventing the distribution of humanitarian aid is not only illegal but also inhumane,” the task force said, calling on China to stop its “aggressive activities.”

Chinese maritime militia vessels were also reported to have conducted “dangerous maneuvers” and used a long-range acoustic device, causing temporary discomfort and incapacitation among some Filipino crew members, the task force added.

Beijing said it had taken “control measures” against the three ships in the South China Sea that it claimed had entered waters near Scarborough Shoal, according to Chinese state media.

The Philippines and China have a long history of maritime accidents in the contested South China Sea, through which more than $3 trillion in maritime trade passes annually.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. But the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague declared in 2016 that China’s claims had no legal basis.

Source : www.aljazeera.com

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