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New Video Shows Damage From China Coast Guard's Water Cannon Attack

China Coast Guard cutters water cannon a Philippine supply boat
Image courtesy Armed Forces of the Philippines

Published Mar 25, 2024 10:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

A new video obtained by media outlet GMA shows the extensive damage that the China Coast Guard inflicted on a Philippine supply boat near Second Thomas Shoal last weekend. The Unaizah May 4 was hit repeatedly by high-power water cannons, breaking the windows on the bridge, soaking the upper deck level and injuring multiple crewmembers. It is the second time that Philippine servicemembers have been injured by Chinese forces at the reef.

On Saturday morning, CCG cutters and Chinese maritime militia vessels worked to block a convoy consisting of two PCG cutters and the supply boat Unaizah May 4, according to the Philippine Coast Guard. The Chinese vessels used water cannon to disable the Unaizah May, and video shows powerful water jets blasting through the upper deck level of the supply boat, lashing the crew and jumbling their cargo. The footage shows extensive interior damage, including serious damage to the pilothouse. 

The supply boat required assistance from a nearby Philippine Coast Guard cutter, and it did not complete its mission. (A RIB launch did carry six personnel and a small quantity of cargo to the destination, the outpost on Second Thomas Shoal, according to the PCG.)

The altercation drew protests from Manila. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs summoned China's ambassador on Monday to convey its "strong protest against the aggressive actions undertaken by the China Coast Guard." It also demanded that China withdraw its vessels from the area around Second Thomas Shoal, which is within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.  

"China's aggressive actions call into question its sincerity in lowering the tensions and promoting peace and stability in the South China Sea," the ministry said in a statement. 

China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea as its own, including Second Thomas Shoal and other features within the Philippines' 200-nautical-mile EEZ line. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled that China's claims were not consistent with international maritime law, but Beijing refuses to recognize the court's legitimacy. 

“If China is not afraid to state its claims to the world, then why don’t we arbitrate under international law?” Philippine defense minister Locsin Teodoro told reporters in Manila on Monday. “No country believes [their claims]."