(Bloomberg) -- A Philippine sailor detailed for the first time on Tuesday how he lost his thumb in the June 17 clash between Beijing and Manila’s boats in the South China Sea.

The scuffle started when around eight Chinese vessels approached two Philippine rubber boats near the Southeast Asian nation’s military outpost in Second Thomas Shoal, Navy Seaman Jeffry Facundo told a Senate hearing. Manila regularly brings supplies and troops to the outpost, a rusty World War II-era ship that’s been beached there since 1999. 

“The Chinese vessels came without warning and rammed our boat straight away,” the Filipino crew member said. He said his thumb was caught under the keel of a Chinese vessel that partially mounted the boat he was riding, causing the injury.

The sailor’s narrative, along with videos released by the Philippine military, paints a picture of how encounters between Manila and Beijing in the disputed sea have become closer and more intense, risking more casualties. China has maintained that its actions were lawful.

Why China, Philippines Keep Clashing at Sea and What Comes Next

The Filipino crew member also said Chinese forces punctured a boat that was supposed to be used for his medical evacuation. He repeated earlier accounts from defense officials of how Chinese crew held “customized spears,” and seized guns from Philippine troops.

Manila is hoping to arrive at “confidence-building measures” with China during possible talks in early July where recent maritime encounters will be tackled, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said at the same hearing. 

The Philippines is trying to balance asserting its sovereignty with protecting troops and preventing miscalculation in the disputed sea, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro also told the Senate. “We are playing a very, very delicate balance here,” he said.

The US earlier called out China for its “escalatory” moves. Philippine officials have, however, said that Beijing’s actions, while deliberate, can’t be considered yet an “armed attack” that would trigger a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the US.

(Adds comments from foreign affairs, defense chiefs.)

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