BEIJING, April 22 (Reuters) - China on Wednesday defended the actions of its vessels in the disputed South China Sea after the Philippines accused China's coast guard of using water cannon on Philippine fishing boats and urged Manila to increase its "education" of its fishermen.
Filipino fishermen said that China's coast guard boarded their fishing boats and threw away fish catch and fishing gear last week after spraying them with water in a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.
The presidential palace in Manila said China's coast guard used water cannon on Monday to drive away a group of Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, damaging some of their wooden boats. Chinese ships rammed a fishing boat in the area a few months ago.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not directly confirm whether water cannon was used. He said that "official Chinese vessels in waters near the Huangyan island carried out their duties and managed the relevant waters according to law", using the Chinese name for Scarborough Shoal.
"Recently, many Philippine fishing boats disobeyed China's administration and gathered illegally in Huangyan Island waters, violating China's sovereignty and maritime rights and interests," Hong said.
"We demand that the Philippine side increase its education and control of its fishermen, and cease all behaviour that violates China's sovereignty and rights and interests."
Philippine and U.S. Marines took part in their biggest combined military exercise in 15 years this week, a demonstration of Washington's commitment to its longtime ally as it rebalances to Asia.
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