March 6, 2024

Senator Schmitt Demands Department of Defense Action Regarding Ongoing Harassment of Filipino Ships in South China Sea

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Eric Schmitt sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense to call for Department of Defense assistance to the Philippines in response to the escalating harassment campaign by the Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militias at the direction of the Chinese Communist Party:

“We must project strength, not only to send a message to our adversaries, but to reassure our allies of the United States’ ability and commitment to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea lead. Harassment by any country in internationally recognized, sovereign waters is unacceptable, and China must know they cannot continue to prevent our Filipino allies from conducting lawful activities within their own exclusive economic zone. Assuring our allies and the world we will counter the rising threat China poses is a top priority of mine, and I look forward to a comprehensive response from Sec. Austin,” said Senator Eric Schmitt.


  • In 2016, an international tribunal established that the waters surrounding the Second Thomas Shoal fall within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
    • China has no legal claim to the area.
  • The Shoal lies well within 200nm of the Philippines, but is more than 600 nautical miles from the closest Chinese territory. 


  • JULY 7- The Philippine military reports “alarming” increase in the number of Chinese vessels in disputed waters.
  • 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.
  • SEPT 24-25 – The Philippines accuses China’s coast guard of installing a “floating barrier” near the Scarborough Shoal, and removes the object.
  • 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.
  • DEC 3 – The Philippines monitors what it calls the “illegal presence” of more than 135 Chinese maritime militia vessels in the vicinity of Whitsun Reef, which Manila calls the Julian Felipe Reef.
  • DEC 9-10 – The Philippines accuses China of firing water cannons at its boats, including one carrying its military chief, and ramming others, causing serious engine damage.

Read the full letter attached.