PCG ship on way to shoal
MANILA, Philippines — China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels fired water cannons at Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ships that were escorting boats conducting a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre near Ayungin Shoal last Saturday.
The confrontation was the latest flare-up in the West Philippine Sea, with China using its coast guard, which is under its Central Military Commission chaired by President Xi Jinping.
The Philippines condemned yesterday the water cannon attack, stressing that the area is part of the country’s exclusive economic zone or EEZ.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said the DFA is fully aware of the incident reported, and shares the concerns raised by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PCG in their statements condemning the latest Chinese actions.
The DFA has filed a large number of diplomatic protests over increasingly hostile actions by China in recent years.
“The Ayungin Shoal is a low tide elevation that is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental
shelf, pursuant to the 1982 UNCLOS and as affirmed by the 2016 Arbitral Award.
The Philippines exercises sovereign rights and jurisdiction over Ayungin Shoal,” Daza said in a text message to reporters.
The PCG condemned the alleged dangerous maneuvers and aggression shown by the CCG in a statement issued yesterday by PCG-West Philippine Sea spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela, which asks the CCG to discipline their forces in the WPS and show respect for the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the area.
“The PCG calls on the China Coast Guard to restrain its forces, respect the sovereign rights of the Philippines in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, refrain from hampering freedom of navigation, and take appropriate actions against the individuals involved in this unlawful incident,” said Tarriela.
Tarriela provided photos reportedly showing Chinese vessels CCG 4203 and CCG 5303 firing their water cannons at different sections of the PCG’s BRP Malabrigo, at approximately seven nautical miles northeast of Ayungin Shoal also known as Second Thomas Shoal. No injuries were reported from PCG personnel or from the boats being escorted.
The PCG vessels were escorting indigenous boats that were chartered by the AFP to deliver water, fuel and other supplies to military troops staying at the BRP Sierra Madre which serves as their outpost in the WPS.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines strongly condemns and expresses grave concern over the China Coast Guard’s excessive and unlawful actions against Philippine vessels near Ayungin Shoal,” the AFP said in a statement issued yesterday.
The incident prevented one of two chartered boats from unloading supplies needed by military troops stationed at the Sierra Madre.
“Because of the CCG’s dangerous maneuvers, the second supply boat was not able to unload the supplies and could not complete the RORE (Rotation and Reprovisioning) mission,” the AFP said.
“We call on the China Coast Guard to act with prudence and be responsible in their actions to prevent miscalculations and accidents that will endanger peoples’ lives,” the AFP urged.
Tarriela said that these actions exhibited by the CCG “not only disregarded the safety of the PCG crew and the supply boats, but also violated international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the 1972 Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS), and the 2016 Arbitral Award.”
“We ask that China Coast Guard, as an organization with a responsibility to observe state obligations under UNCLOS, COLREGs, and other relevant instruments of international maritime safety and security, to cease all illegal activities within the maritime zones of the Philippines,” he added.
In Beijing, China Coast Guard spokesman Gan Yu said: “Two repair ships and two coast guard ships from the Philippines illegally broke into the waters… in China’s Nansha Islands.”
Beijing “implemented necessary controls in accordance with the law and stopped Philippine ships carrying illegal building materials,” he added.
This is not the first instance that CCG ships allegedly tried to block PCG vessels from reaching Ayungin Shoal, where the Sierra Madre ran aground in 1999.
Just last June 30, CCG ships reportedly demonstrated its aggressive behavior as it tried to block two PCG vessels, the Malabrigo and the BRP Malapascua, that were escorting a boat conducting a resupply mission to the outpost.
It was recently announced that the Philippines is set to conduct joint sea patrols with the US, which might take place before yearend.
While the US lays no claims to the WPS, it has often lashed out at China’s aggressive actions and deployed its warships and fighter jets in patrols and military exercises with regional allies to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight, which it says is in America’s national interest.
China has warned the US to stop meddling in what it calls a purely Asian dispute and has warned of unspecified repercussions.
Additionally, Beijing has criticized a recent agreement by the Philippines and the US, which are longtime treaty allies, allowing American forces access to additional Filipino military camps under a 2014 defense agreement.
Senators condemn water attack
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said China’s water attack was yet again a manifestation of its “might vs. right” treatment of its peaceful neighbors.
“By its actions, it shows diplomatic duplicity, of preaching about amity, but practicing hostile behavior,” Zubiri said.
“We want to make friends. But why is it so hard to love you, China?” he added in Filipino
“This incident reaffirms the merit of the resolution the Senate has unanimously passed,” he noted. “Because China contemptuously ignores protests, all the more that we have to rally the world to condemn acts which have no place in a civilized order.”
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said the PCG should think of ways to outsmart the CCG on their resupply missions, adding, “They should come up with sensible plans behind closed doors.”
“Use diplomacy and “intelligent tactics,” Pimentel added.
He, however, said the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US should not be invoked lightly. “Use our common sense, not the MDT.”
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said, “This kind of bullying must stop!”
“We need to have a strong stance against the continuous harassment of the Chinese Coast Guard on our Philippine Coast Guard – in our very own territory! This is the reason why the Senate adopted Resolution No. 718 strongly condemning incursions like this. Your Senate is always ready to fight for and protect the country’s sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he said.
“We urge the (DFA) to implement the courses of action stipulated in the resolution passed by the Senate to finally put an end to this harassment and bullying by China,” Villanueva added.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who authored the resolution condemning China for its intrusion in the WPS, said “The CCG has absolutely no right to block, let alone water cannon, our supply vessels. They have no right to starve the Filipinos in Ayungin Shoal.”
She said, “China’s repeated provocations are in complete violation of UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award. I call on our regional neighbors and the broader international community to join the Philippines in condemning this dangerous behavior.”
“I also hope our country can start joint patrols with other claimant countries in the SCS, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. We need to work together to stop China’s aggressive actions,” Hontiveros said.
“I also hope that the DFA is already starting the steps to bring China’s endless interference to various international fora. The recently adopted Senate resolution 718, with its precision and specific recommendations, is at their disposal,” she added in Filipino.
Sen. JV Ejercito said, “It is clear that the Government of the People’s Republic of China is deliberately ignoring the 2016 Arbitral Ruling that dismissed their baseless Nine Dash Line claim. At the same time, they are playing deaf to our diplomatic protests and warnings from our allies.”
He noted that “the fact that this incident happened shortly after the Senate of the Philippines approved a resolution seeking to raise China’s bullying before the United Nations makes it even more insulting.”
“We cannot let this slip. This is too much already! China is frustrating! China’s abuse of our Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, and fishermen is too much. Territory, security, and peace are at stake here!” Ejercito said in a mix of Filipino and English.
“I urge the national government to heed the Senate’s recent resolution on China’s aggression and take decisive measures to safeguard our territorial integrity. These measures will require us to expedite the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and strengthen our defense cooperation program and pacts with our allies,” he added.
Sen. Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. said the Chinese ambassador has a lot of explaining to do, and must not shirk from the obligation to shepherd the maintenance of diplomatic relations, especially with yet another blatant disregard for Philippine autonomy and sovereignty.
“It would do well for China to remind its subjects to respect the sovereign rights of the Philippines and the internationally recognized right of freedom of navigation,” he said. — Pia Lee-Brago, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Rainier Allan Ronda,
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