What Happened: Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has called for an investigation after a Filipino fishing boat hit by a suspected Chinese vessel sank near Reed Bank in the South China Sea's Spratly Islands, The Washington Post reported June 12. The Philippine coast guard is reportedly looking into whether the collision was intentional and whether Chinese fishermen were involved.
Why It Matters: When the South China Sea fishing season peaks from April to August, the risk of encounters between Philippine and Chinese vessels will mount. Accidental or intentional collisions raise domestic pressure on the Philippine government to take a hard-line stance against Beijing — especially if the Chinese coast guard or maritime militia vessels are found to be involved.
Background: Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, the Philippines has adopted a conciliatory stance toward China. Although Duterte's political position is strong, a vocal nationalist outcry against this outreach remains.
- Duterte's Policies Earn a Vote of Confidence in Philippine Elections (May 15, 2019)
- Japan Woos a Region Caught Between the U.S. and China (May 14, 2019)
- Fish: The Overlooked Destabilizer in the South China Sea (Feb. 12, 2016)