Two Chinese coast guard vessels on Saturday fired water cannon at a Philippine boat on a supply mission to a grounded navy ship in the South China Sea, leaving the supply vessel heavily damaged, the Philippine military said.

The civilian boat, contracted by the Philippine armed forces to transport troops for rotation assignment and provisional supplies at the BRP Sierra Madre in Manila-controlled Second Thomas Shoal, was also subjected to dangerous maneuvers by the Chinese coast guard vessels, according to the military.

Screengrab from video provided by the Philippine military shows a Chinese coast guard ship (top right) using water cannons on a Philippine resupply vessel on March 23, 2024. (Armed Forces of the Philippines/AP/Kyodo)

The Chinese coast guard fired water cannon at the same boat on March 5 while it was on the same mission, leaving it damaged and injuring four personnel.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, and its coast guard said at the time that only one Philippine vessel is allowed to bring "necessities of life" to BRP Sierra Madre.

The Philippines intentionally grounded the ship at the shoal in 1999 to enforce its claim in the area.

In a statement about the latest incident, the Chinese coast guard accused the Philippines of attempting to transport construction materials. A Philippine Navy spokesman denied the allegation.

The Philippine government's task force in charge of the issue said in a statement that the "systematic and consistent manner" in which China "continues to carry out these illegal and irresponsible actions belies its hollow claims to peace, dialogue, and adherence to international law."

A Philippine coast guard vessel managed to reach the damaged supply boat to provide assistance, according to the military. Some navy personnel and "essential cargoes" were eventually transferred to BRP Sierra Madre using an inflatable boat.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in a 2016 ruling invalidated China's sweeping claim to the resource-rich sea. But Beijing has rejected the decision.

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