Philippines says Chinese boats have assaulted its fishing fleet

Written by CNN Staff Writer

China is using a “violent tactic” to enforce its territorial claims in the South China Sea, according to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Speaking at a press conference in Manila, Duterte called China’s actions “disrespectful” and “damaging.”

“This is a tactic that is disrespectful,” he said of the Chinese. “To deal with an irresponsible actor … may be the only option — use violence, use force, [and] use patience, use an open hand.”

The Philippines maintains competing claims to the disputed area with China and several Southeast Asian countries. The Philippines also has longstanding strategic ties with the United States, one of its closest allies in the region.

High-seas show of force

On Monday, Filipino fishermen said that their boat was boarded by Chinese coast guard ships from the Sansha district of Zhejiang province. Chinese authorities are currently searching the area for possible illegal fishing trawlers, according to the vessel’s captain, Luis de la Cruz.

“I just heard a loud sound that sounded like a boat breaking the water,” de la Cruz said. “Then suddenly, suddenly, the Chinese Coast Guard came and they attacked.”

Video posted to YouTube by de la Cruz captured the moment a coast guard patrol vessel from Hainan island sprayed water from a hose at the fishing vessel.

China and the Philippines have long been at odds over sea disputes. The South China Sea is believed to have huge quantities of natural resources, including oil and gas. The US says that several of China’s territorial claims overlap with the waters of the Philippines.

China has conducted many reclamation and other aggressive projects to assert its claim over the sea. But Duterte said China’s latest actions were part of a broader plan to gain more control of the area.

“It is part of their grand master plan to get the resources of the Sea of Japan and then the Sea of Singapore,” Duterte said.

Duterte has made no secret of his disaffection toward the US and China, but has refrained from criticizing the Philippine side in a similar vein.

Vietnam has also complained to the US about Chinese behavior in the region. But while the Philippines has not publicly gone after China, Vietnam has accused the Chinese coast guard of physically assaulting its vessels.

China denies there has been any altercation with Vietnamese fishermen.

With CNN’s Katherine Rodriguez and correspondents Lee Freedman and Lynn Neary reporting.

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