Philippine Coast Guard accuses Chinese counterpart of hindering sick soldier’s evacuation in South China Sea

BRP Sierra Madre

7th June 2024 – (Manila) The Philippine Coast Guard has levelled serious allegations against the Chinese Coast Guard, accusing them of impeding the evacuation of a sick Philippine armed forces member in the South China Sea. The incident, which occurred last month near the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, involved the guarding of the grounded Philippine vessel, BRP Sierra Madre, by a small contingent of marines. This location has been a site of frequent confrontations between China and the Philippines in recent times.

According to Jay Tarriela, the spokesperson for the Philippine Coast Guard, despite notifying the Chinese vessels about the medical nature of the operation, they relentlessly obstructed the evacuation process. In a strongly worded statement, Tarriela condemned the actions of the Chinese Coast Guard, labelling them as “barbaric and inhumane,” and affirming that such behaviour has no place in their society.

The Chinese embassy in the Philippines has been contacted for a response, but no official statement has been issued thus far. Tarriela further stated that the Chinese Coast Guard engaged in dangerous manoeuvres and intentionally rammed a navy boat that was transporting the sick personnel, making a straightforward medical evacuation operation unnecessarily challenging.

Earlier this week, Philippine military chief Romeo Brawner revealed that the initial attempt to transport the sick soldier to Palawan province had failed due to Chinese interference. However, with the assistance of the Philippine Coast Guard, another attempt was made the following day, resulting in the successful evacuation of the soldier.

Tensions between the Philippines and China have been escalating due to disputes over territories in the South China Sea. China claims vast portions of the region, which serves as a crucial passage for over $3 trillion in annual ship commerce. In response, China has deployed numerous coast guard vessels up to 1,000 km off its mainland to assert its jurisdiction. The Philippines, supported by its allies, has repeatedly condemned what they perceive as Beijing’s aggression, while China accuses the Philippines of encroachment.

It is worth noting that in 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled that China’s claims in the South China Sea had no legal basis. However, China has rejected this decision and continues to assert its territorial claims in the region.