China Coast Guard Obstructs Rescue of Two Filipino Fishermen

A China Coast Guard cutter stands by next to a stricken Philippine fishing vessel at Scarborough Shoal, June 30, 2024 (PCG)
A China Coast Guard cutter stands by next to a stricken Philippine fishing vessel at Scarborough Shoal, June 29, 2024 (PCG)

Published Jun 30, 2024 11:15 PM by The Maritime Executive


The China Coast Guard actively obstructed a rescue operation to save two Philippine fishermen after their vessel suffered an engine explosion, according to Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Jay Tarriela. 

On Saturday, the Philippine Coast Guard vessel BRP Sindangan responded to a request for assistance from a fishing boat at Scarborough Shoal, a contested reef controlled by Chinese forces within the Philippine exclusive economic zone. According to Tarriela, the CCG deployed two rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) and attempted to "obstruct and hinder" the efforts of the rescuers. In a video from the scene, two large China Coast Guard cutters can be seen approaching the stricken fishing boat while the PCG cutter holds station alongside. 

The Philippine Coast Guard boat crew managed to evade the CCG patrol boats and transfer two injured fishermen on board for first aid. The two victims had second degree burns, and the BRP Sindangan got under way for Luzon - with the fishing boat in tow - to deliver them safely to higher medical care. The cutter arrived in Subic Bay in the early hours of Monday morning and transferred the two fishermen to an ambulance service. 

Via state media, the China Coast Guard released its own video of the encounter and claimed that it had helped rescue the injured fishermen. The video showed China Coast Guard personnel throwing life preservers onto the stricken vessel. 

The Philippine Coast Guard routinely encounters obstruction from the China Coast Guard at Scarborough Shoal and at Second Thomas Shoal, the two major flashpoints in the Spratly Islands. Several recent incidents have turned violent, and multiple Philippine servicemembers have been injured by ramming and water-cannoning. In the last run-in at Second Thomas Shoal, one Philippine soldier lost his thumb when a China Coast Guard launch rammed his boat.