Philippines-China Tensions: A Timeline of Maritime Disputes

The timeline details escalating tensions between the Philippines and China over maritime disputes in the South China Sea under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Key events include increased military cooperation between the Philippines and the U.S., frequent accusations of aggressive actions by China's coast guard, and diplomatic efforts to manage the conflict.

Reuters | Updated: 13-06-2024 13:12 IST | Created: 13-06-2024 13:12 IST
Philippines-China Tensions: A Timeline of Maritime Disputes

Relations between Manila and Beijing have soured under Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, with Manila pivoting back towards the United States which supports the Southeast Asian nation in its maritime disputes with China.

Here is a timeline of key events since 2023 that have escalated tensions between the Philippines and China: JAN 3-5 - Marcos goes on three-day visit to Beijing where he and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree to set up direct communications between their foreign ministries on the South China Sea.

FEB 2 - The Philippines grants the United States greater access to four more military bases under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). FEB 13-14 - The Philippines accuses China's coast guard of directing a "military-grade laser" at one of its ships supporting a resupply mission to troops living aboard an ageing warship that Manila deliberately grounded on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in 1999. Marcos summons China's ambassador.

APRIL 3 - The Philippines reveals the locations of the four additional bases that Washington can use under EDCA. Three face north towards Taiwan and one is near the disputed Spratly Islands. APRIL 11 - More than 17,000 Filipino and U.S. soldiers begin their largest ever joint military drills in the Philippines.

APRIL 22 - Marcos and his foreign secretary meet China's then-foreign minister Qin Gang in Manila, pledging to work together to resolve maritime differences. MAY 1 - U.S. President Joe Biden welcomes Marcos at the White House, the first visit by a Philippine leader in 10 years. They express "unwavering commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea".

MAY 3 - The United States and the Philippines agree on new guidelines for their 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, which specifically mention that mutual defence commitments would be invoked in an armed attack on either country "anywhere in the South China Sea". JUNE 6 - The coast guards of the United States, Japan and the Philippines hold trilateral exercises in the South China Sea, the first such manoeuvres.

AUG 5 - The Philippines accuses China's coast guard of blocking and firing a water cannon against a supply boat transporting food for troops on the Second Thomas Shoal, known in China as Renai Reef and in Manila as Ayungin Shoal. AUG 7 - China's coast guard urges the Philippines to remove the grounded warship from the Second Thomas Shoal.

OCT 22-24 - The Philippines accuses Chinese coastguard vessels of intentionally colliding with its vessels routinely supplying forces stationed at the Second Thomas Shoal. No one was harmed. NOV 16 - The Philippines calls on China to remove all "illegal structures" built within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), cease reclamation in those areas and be accountable for the damage the activities caused.

NOV 21 - The militaries of the Philippines and the United States launch joint patrols from waters near Taiwan to the South China Sea. NOV 25 - The Philippines and Australia begin their first joint sea and air patrols in the South China Sea.

DEC 9-10 - The Philippines accuses China of firing water cannon at its boats, including one carrying its military chief, and ramming others, causing serious engine damage. China's coast guard says the Philippine vessel intentionally rammed its ship. DEC 19 - Marcos says a "paradigm shift" is needed in how his country approaches the South China Sea, as diplomatic efforts with Beijing were headed in a "poor direction".

DEC 21 - China says bilateral relations are at a crossroads and warns the Philippines against "misjudging" the maritime situation. JAN 3 - The Philippines and the United States carry out their second joint patrol in the South China Sea as China conducts a similar activity with its naval and air forces in the disputed waterway.

FEB 9 - The Philippines and the United States conducts joint maritime exercises in the South China Sea for a third time as China carries out "routine patrols" in the area. FEB 10 - The Philippine coast guard accuses China of "dangerous and blocking" manoeuvres while its vessel patrolled near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea this month.

MARCH 5 - The Philippines calls out China for its coast guard's "reckless" and "illegal" actions that led to a collision between a Chinese and Philippine ship, damaging the latter and injuring some of its crew, during a resupply mission for troops at the Second Thomas Shoal. China says the Philippine vessels illegally intruded into waters adjacent to the shoal. MARCH 6 - The Philippines summons China's deputy chief of mission in Manila to protest "aggressive actions" by Chinese naval forces against the resupply mission.

MARCH 20 - China says the United States must refrain from "stirring up trouble" or taking sides on the South China Sea issue, after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, while on a visit to Manila, a security deal with the Philippines extended to attacks on the Philippine coast guard. MARCH 24 - China's coastguard says it had taken measures against Philippine vessels carrying out a resupply mission for troops at the Second Thomas Shoal, while the Philippines decried the moves, including the use of water cannon that damaged its ship and injured its crew, as "irresponsible and provocative".

MARCH 25 - Philippines summons China's envoy to protest against "aggressive actions" in the South China Sea, as Manila's defence minister dared Beijing to bolster its vast sovereignty claims by taking them to international arbitration. China says relations with Manila at 'crossroads' amid maritime incidents. MARCH 28 - Marcos says his country will implement

countermeasures against "illegal, coercive, aggressive, and dangerous attacks" by China's coast guard.

APRIL 3 - Philippines says it will make adjustments in its resupply missions, as part of countermeasures against China's aggressiveness in the South China Sea. Chinese foreign ministry urges Manila to "return to the correct path of properly managing disputes through dialogue and consultation as soon as possible." APRIL 7 - Defence forces of the U.S., Japan, Australia conduct "

maritime cooperative activity " in the Philippines' EEZ in the South China Sea.

APRIL 8 - Marcos calls on China to talk to prevent more incidents such as ramming vessels and the use of water cannons in the South China Sea. APRIL 11 - U.S., Japan and the Philippines hold first-of-its-kind

trilateral summit in Washington to push back on Beijing's stepped-up pressure on Manila in the disputed South China Sea.

APRIL 22 - More than 16,000 Filipino and American troops begin a three-week joint combat training exercise in the Philippines, involving maritime drills in the South China Sea. APRIL 30 - Philippines accuses China's coast guard of harassment and of

damaging two of its boats in a disputed area of the South China Sea, rejects Beijing's position that it had expelled those vessels from the hotly contested Scarborough shoal.

MAY 2 - Philippines summons

Chinese diplomat to protest Beijing's use of water cannons against Filipino vessels at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea. MAY 8 - Philippine military chief accuses China of a

"malign influence effort" , after local media reported a Filipino vice admiral had made a deal with Beijing to de-escalate tensions in the South China Sea.

MAY 10 - Philippine national security council calls for Chinese diplomats to be expelled

from the country for what it calls a malicious disinformation campaign; China demands that Manila cease being provocative and allow Chinese diplomats to perform their duties normally. MAY 13 - The Philippines says it will keep a closer guard on reefs, shoals and islets in its EEZ in the South China Sea, as China denies accusations of trying to build an artificial island in the disputed waters.

MAY 15 - Philippine group carries out civilian mission to hand out provisions for fishermen anchored at the contested Scarborough Shoal. MAY 20 - Philippines urges China to open Scarborough Shoal to international scrutiny,

accusing Beijing of destroying the shoal's marine environment.

MAY 22 - A senior Philippine navy official accuses the Chinese embassy in Manila of recording a phone call

without his consent and denies forging a deal with Beijing to deescalate tensions in the South China Sea. MAY 29 - Marcos says new rules outlined by China's coast guard that could result in the detention of foreigners in the South China Sea were an "escalation" and "worrisome".

MAY 31 - Marcos, speaking at Asia's largest annual security conference, slams

"illegal, coercive, aggressive and deceptive" actions in the South China Sea, without naming China. JUNE 4 - The Philippine military says troops stationed on a warship grounded on a disputed South China Sea shoal held on to their

weapons after Chinese coast guard boats came very close to the ship but they did not point their guns at them.

JUNE 7 - Philippine coast guard accuses its Chinese counterpart of blocking efforts to evacuate a sick military personnel in the South China Sea last month, calling its actions " barbaric and inhumane

". Chinese foreign ministry says it will allow the Philippines to deliver supplies and evacuate personnel if Manila notifies Beijing ahead of a mission.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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