Asia

Manila lodges protest with China over water cannon attack

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez answers questions during a press conference at the DFA building in Manila on 25 February 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Foreign Ministry spokesman Raul Hernandez said they summoned China's top envoy in Manila

The Philippines has lodged a protest with China over reports Chinese coast guard fired a water cannon at Filipino fishermen near disputed waters.

It claims a Chinese vessel also "continuously blew its horn" before dousing two Filipino boats near the Scarborough Shoal on 27 January.

China's Foreign Ministry has brushed off the protest, but re-asserted the country's claim to the area.

The dispute is the latest over an area believed to be rich in resources.

China claims ownership of large parts of the South China Sea, including the Scarborough Shoal, located off the coast of the Philippines.

Neighbouring countries Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have competing claims with China in the region.

In 2012, the Philippines and China had a tense stand-off at Scarborough Shoal, when vessels from the two countries refused to leave the area for weeks. It led to protests and angry rhetoric on both sides.

Chinese vessels have since remained at the shoal. Meanwhile, the Philippines challenged China's territorial claims at a UN tribunal last year.

The Philippines summoned Sun Xiangyang, China's top envoy in Manila, to make a formal protest, Foreign Ministry spokesman, Raul Hernandez, told reporters.

The ministry said in a statement that it "strongly protests the efforts of China to prohibit Filipino fishermen from undertaking activities" in the area.

Filipino fish trader Macario Forones told the Associated Press news agency the Chinese used water mixed with oil while they shouted at his fishermen: "Go away, go away."

Meanwhile, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, told a regular press briefing in Beijing that "China does not accept so-called representations or protests from the Philippines".

"At present, there are Chinese government public vessels patrolling the waters of Scarborough Shoal, with the aim of protecting Chinese sovereignty and at the same time, protecting normal order in these seas in accordance with law," she said.

It is believed that the disputed area in the South China Sea, which is considered a strategic shipping lane, may hold vast reserves of natural resources.

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