The Philippines said on Tuesday that China’s coast guard harassed Filipino fishermen earlier this month near a disputed atoll, some 200km off its main island of Luzon.
The Philippine Coast Guard said in a report that three Chinese coast guard ships chased away three Philippine fishing boats near Scarborough Shoal on September 6.
The report said that there was a brief chase and heated exchanges. However, the fishermen eventually managed to stay near the shoal overnight but they left early in the morning.
According to the reports, another Philippine fishing boat was chased away from Scarborough on September 10. Rubber boats from a Chinese ship encircled the fishing boat and took photos and videos of the it.
These incidents took place while President Rodrigo Duterte made calls to allow Filipinos fish near Scarborough shoal and in other parts of the disputed South China Sea inside the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
Duterte tried to sort out the conflicts and he kept sending entreaties for warmer ties with Beijing.
The relation between the Philippines and China tumbles under his predecessor Benigno Aquino, who pursue a more aggressive tactics towards dealing with China.
Duterte said on Monday that he would “open alliances”” with China, as well as Russia, while he again indicated to shift away from the United States which is a long-time ally and a big rival of China for influence in the region.
He said Philippines was at the “point of no return” in relations with the US.
Duterte also ordered the defence officials to purchase weapons from China and Russia. He asked them to end joint patrols with the US in the South China Sea.
He said the Philippines would maintain its guard within its 12-nautical-mile in the territorial sea.
“We keep ourselves there. I don’t want to join patrols with any army because I don’t want any trouble… I don’t want to go gung-ho with China or America,” Duterte said.
In July, an arbitration tribunal at The Hague rejected China’s vast territorial claims in the contested waters in a case brought by the Philippines and ruled in favour of the Philippines. The tribunal defined waters around Scarborough as “traditional fishing grounds”.
However, Duterte has repeatedly said the conflict was pointless and urged China to accept the ruling.
Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes and its territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.