Philippines sends ships to shoal after China blockade
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Philippine military defiantly redeployed two supply boats on Monday to provide food for Philippine marines guarding a disputed shoal in the South China Sea after the coast guard The China Sea used water cannons to force boats to turn away during an attack last week. drew condemnation and angry warnings from Manila.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said two civilian wooden boats carrying naval personnel had left the western province of Palawan and would approach the Marines stationed on naval ships at Second Thomas Shoal after a voyage. overnight. Lorenzana said the boats were not escorted by the navy or coast guard at the request of China’s ambassador to Manila, who assured him during negotiations over the weekend that the boats would not blocked.
However, a naval plane will fly over the remote shoal, which has been besieged by Chinese surveillance ships in a years-long scramble for territory, when Philippine ships arrive there, the stand-in said. head of defense said. The Philippines says the shoal falls within an internationally recognized exclusive economic zone, but China insists it has sovereignty over the sea.
“The Chinese ambassador assured me that they would not be impeded, but they asked to be unaccompanied,” Lorenzana told reporters. When asked if he hoped the jars wouldn’t be blocked, he replied: “We’ll see.”
The government has sent “indignation, condemnation and opposition to the incident” to China after two Chinese coast guard vessels intercepted two Philippine ships on Tuesday and a third coast guard ship sprayed high-pressure water. on the ships, forcing them into action. Officials said they had canceled their mission to deliver food supplies to the marines guarding the shoal.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr ordered Beijing’s ships to back off and warned China that Manila’s supply ships were part of a mutual defense treaty with the United States. Washington later said it sided with the Philippines “in the face of this escalation that directly threatens the peace and stability of the region”, while reiterating “an armed attack on Philippine public ships in the Philippines”. The South China Sea will invoke the United States’ mutual defense commitments” under the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded to the Philippine protests by saying that China’s coast guard had upheld China’s sovereignty after Philippine ships Entering China’s waters at night without permission.
It is the latest outbreak in long simmering territorial disputes in the strategic waterway, where China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims. China claims almost the entire South China Sea and has turned seven of the shoals into missile-protected island bases to bolster its claim, raising tensions.
Philippine national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon said the number of Chinese maritime surveillance ships had increased alarmingly in recent weeks in and around the shoal and also around Thitu, a larger island occupied by the Philippines. located in the Spratly Islands, the hottest contested area in the South China Sea.
China recently continued to call on the Philippines to tow its navy ship BRP Sierra Madre, which the Philippine marines have used as an outpost and ask for China’s help, a Philippine official said. on condition of anonymity because of the lack of authority to discuss the sensitive matter publicly.
However, the Philippine government has said it will never withdraw from the shoal, citing a 2016 ruling by a UN-backed international arbitration panel that invalidated China’s historic claims to the South China Sea. with almost the entire South China Sea. China denied and continued to defy the ruling.
The Philippine military purposely ran aground the Sierra Madre, a World War II-era warship supplied by the United States, at the sunken shoal in 1999 in a move to bolster its claim. The Sierra Madre is actually a shipwreck, but the Philippine military has yet to decommission it. That makes the rust-encrusted ship an extension of the government and means that any attack on the ship is tantamount to an attack against the Philippines.
A Philippine senator, Panfilo Lacson, said he flew to Thitu on Saturday and his jet received a radio message from the Chinese coast guard warning them to stay away. Lacson, who is running for president in next year’s election, said he and his companions landed on the island, where he planted three Philippine flags and led a flag-lowering ceremony while the Chinese coast guard ships patrol nearby.
“This is my country, not theirs. They have no rights,” said Lacson, a former national police chief.