Philippine Coast Guard Condemns Chinese Obstruction of Medical Evacuation in South China Sea

Philippine Coast Guard Condemns Chinese Obstruction of Medical Evacuation in South China Sea

The Philippine Coast Guard has accused China’s Coast Guard of obstructing a medical evacuation of a sick marine stationed at the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, branding the actions as “barbaric and inhumane.”

The incident, which occurred last month, involved a small contingent of Philippine marines posted on the BRP Sierra Madre, a vessel grounded at the Second Thomas Shoal, a frequent flashpoint in the ongoing territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.

Coast Guard spokesperson Jay Tarriela reported that both coast guard and navy vessels from the Philippines faced harassment from Chinese vessels, despite having notified them that the mission was for medical purposes. “The barbaric and inhumane behaviour displayed by the China Coast Guard has no place in our society,” Tarriela stated.

In response, the Chinese foreign ministry declared on Friday that it would allow the Philippines to deliver supplies and evacuate personnel if Beijing is informed in advance. However, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning emphasised that the Philippines “may not use this as an excuse to transport materials of construction to its naval vessels in an attempt to permanently occupy Ren’ai Jiao,” referring to the Second Thomas Shoal by its Chinese name.

Tarriela accused the Chinese coast guard of engaging in “dangerous manoeuvres” and intentionally ramming a navy boat during the evacuation attempt. “What should have been a simple medical evacuation operation was subjected to harassment,” he added.

Philippine military chief Romeo Brawner disclosed that the initial effort to transport the sick soldier to the western province of Palawan was thwarted by the Chinese. A subsequent attempt, supported by the Philippine Coast Guard, successfully evacuated the soldier, Brawner confirmed.

China asserts claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, a vital conduit for over $3 trillion in annual maritime trade and has deployed numerous coast guard vessels far from its mainland to enforce its jurisdiction. This has led to frequent clashes with the Philippines, which falls within Manila’s exclusive economic zone.

Tensions between the two nations have escalated over the past year, with China accusing the Philippines of encroachment, while Manila and its allies have condemned Beijing’s actions as aggressive. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea had no legal basis, a decision Beijing has continuously rejected.

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