China should restrain its forces so that they do not commit any “provocative act,” the Philippine military said on Monday, after Manila accused China’s coast guard of using a laser to try to disrupt a resupply mission to its troops in the South China Sea.
The Philippine coast guard said its vessel was assisting a navy mission to deliver food and supplies to troops stationed on an atoll in the disputed waterway on Feb. 6 when a Chinese coast guard ship directed a “military-grade laser” at the ship temporarily blinding its crew at the bridge.
“I think it’s time for the Chinese government to restrain its forces so that it does not commit any provocative act that will endanger the lives of people,” military spokesperson Medel Aguilar told reporters.
Aguilar also quoted the Philippine defense chief as saying the action of the Chinese coast guard was “offensive” and “unsafe.”
The incident took place at the Second Thomas Shoal, 105 nautical miles (195 km) off the Philippine province of Palawan, which is the temporary home of a small contingent of military aboard a rusty ship.
The 330-foot World War II ship was intentionally grounded at the shoal, known locally as Ayungin, in 1999 to reinforce Manila’s sovereignty claims in the Spratly archipelago.
“The deliberate blocking of the Philippine government ships to deliver food and supplies to our military personnel…is a blatant disregard for, and a clear violation of, Philippine sovereign rights,” the PCG said in a statement.
Images supplied by the Philippines showed a green light emanating from a Chinese vessel with bow number 5205.
The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment. China has said it was ready to manage maritime issues “cordially” with the Philippines during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s visit to Beijing in January.
Marcos’ office declined to comment, referring reporters to the PCG statement.
It is not the first time China has been accused of using lasers in the region.
In February last year, Australia accused Beijing of an ‘act of intimidation’ after a Chinese navy vessel directed a laser at an Australian military surveillance aircraft.
The reported bid to block the Philippine resupply mission comes as Marcos has expressed openness to forging a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Japan to boost maritime security.
Marcos visited Japan last week to forge closer security ties with Tokyo, which in December announced its biggest military-build up since World War Two, fueled by concerns about aggressive Chinese actions in the region.
The Philippine president also recently granted the United States access to additional military bases in the Philippines under a VFA, a move that China said undermined regional stability and raised tensions. The VFA provides rules for the rotation of thousands of U.S. troops in and out of the Philippines for exercises.