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Chinese coastguard collides with Philippine ships as tensions rise over disputed islands

Chinese coastguard vessels caused two collisions with Philippine ships in the South China Sea and hit another with a water cannon during a resupply mission, injuring four crew.

The incidents, which follow similar confrontations in the area last year, happened in waters around Second Thomas Shoal, a submerged reef in the Spratly Islands, where the countries have contested maritime claims.

A Philippines government task force said in a statement: “China coastguard and Chinese maritime militia vessels harassed, blocked, deployed water cannons and executed dangerous manoeuvres in another attempt to illegally impede or obstruct a routine re-supply and rotation mission.”

China’s coastguard said it “took control measures” against Philippine vessels’ “illegal intrusion” in waters around the shoal.

The BRP Sindangan, along with a sister ship, had been deployed to support the military-chartered vessels Unaizah May 4 and Unaizah May 1 that were carrying soldiers and supplies to Second Thomas Shoal, where Filipino troops are stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded Philippines navy vessel.

Four crew on board the Unaizah May 4 were injured when two Chinese coastguard ships simultaneously fired water cannons at it, shattering its windshield, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said in a statement.

China claims ownership of almost the entire South China Sea, brushing aside competing claims from a host of Southeast Asian nations and an international ruling that has declared its stance baseless.