Manila, Feb 13 (EFE).- The Philippine Coast Guard on Monday accused a Chinese coast guard ship of aiming a military grade laser light at one of its vessels in the contested South China Sea.
“A green laser blinded our crew’s vessel for 10 seconds more or less. It is the first time that Chinese vessels have used this method,” Philippine coast guard spokesperson Armand Balilo told EFE on Monday.
“We believe this is a military purpose laser,” he added.
The incident occurred on Feb. 6 in the waters of the South China Sea, around the Ayungin Shoal – which the Philippines occupies -, and less than 200 miles from the western coast of Palawan, southwest of the archipelago and within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
This distance, of 200 nautical miles, is the limit established by the United Nations to determine the maritime sovereignty of countries, according to a convention which China ratified in 1996.
In a statement issued Monday, the Philippine coast guard accused a Chinese coast guard vessel of using the laser “twice” against the BRP Malapascua vessel in addition to performing “dangerous maneuvers” by approaching within 150 yards (137 meters) of the Philippine ship.
The complaint comes a week after the Philippines and the US signed an agreement that guarantees American troops access to four new military bases located in strategic areas of the Philippines.
Experts say that US access to these bases, whose location has not yet been revealed – with an eye on locations in the north and south of the country, including Palawan – would help contain China’s movements around Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing does not rule out invading, and in the South China Sea, a critical world trade route and rich in natural resources.
In a speech aboard a Philippine Coast Guard vessel in Palawan in November, US Vice President Kamala Harris said that her country will defend the Philippines against Chinese “intimidation” in disputed waters between Manila and Beijing.
China and the Philippines dispute the sovereignty of several islands and atolls in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely.
China also disputes territories with Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei. EFE