Video footage accompanying the report shows Philippine troops in rubber boats cutting nets and pulling some of them aboard their vessels near Second Thomas Shoal.

The Xinhua report alleged that Philippine military personnel had damaged more than 2,000 metres of fishing net and taken more than 100 metres since May 15. It said the Chinese coastguard had helped the fishermen to retrieve their damaged nets.

Philippine troops on the Sierra Madre after allegedly removing Chinese fishing nets from nearby waters. Photo: Xinhua

China claims most of the resource-rich South China Sea, but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims.

Second Thomas Shoal is among the contested areas. A prime fishing ground in the Spratly Island chain, it is known as Renai Jiao in China and Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines.

The shoal is located within the area the Philippines claims as its exclusive economic zone, but it is also claimed by Beijing. It has become a hotspot in the past year, with increasingly tense confrontations between the Chinese coastguard and Philippine vessels.

Manila has yet to comment on the latest accusation. It comes after Chinese state media on Sunday claimed troops from the Sierra Madre had pointed guns at a Chinese coastguard patrol in May when supplies were being delivered to the outpost.

Footage from China’s coastguard appears to show at least two men on the grounded warship aiming their rifles at the Chinese crew. A video released by the Philippine military meanwhile shows the Chinese coastguard intercepting supplies that had been airdropped near the ship.


Why is the Philippines aligning itself with the US after years of close China ties under Duterte

Why is the Philippines aligning itself with the US after years of close China ties under Duterte

“It was just in preparation for self-defence in case something happens because they were very close,” Brawner said on Tuesday, adding that the troops were legally armed.

Philippine military officials told reporters that the Chinese coastguard’s inflatable boats came within five to 10 metres of the Sierra Madre and coastguard officers had confiscated some of the airdropped supplies – actions they said were illegal.

China’s foreign ministry responded that grounding the warship on Second Thomas Shoal was illegal.

“Furthermore, the Philippine side has repeatedly infringed and provoked, escalating the tensions, which is unacceptable to China,” ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

“We urge the Philippines to stop creating further friction and return to the path of resolving differences through dialogue and consultation,” she added.

Manila has taken a more assertive stance with Beijing over the South China Sea since Ferdinand Marcos Jnr became president two years ago. The Philippines has also sought to strengthen military ties with the United States and its regional allies, including through increased joint exercises – moves that have angered China.