The Philippines is relocating boats to shoal after Chinese blockade | MCU Times

The Philippines is relocating boats to shoal after Chinese blockade

Protesters hold slogans during a demonstration outside the Chinese consulate in Manila, Philippines on May 7, 2021.Aaron Favila / The Associated Press

The Philippine military defiantly repositioned two supply boats on Monday to feed Philippine Marines guarding a disputed shoal in the South China Sea after the Chinese Coast Guard used water cannons to force the boats away in an attack last week that provoked angry condemnation. and warnings. from Manila.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the two civilian wooden hull boats with naval personnel left western Palawan province and were to reach the Marines stationed on a naval ship at the Second Thomas Shoal after an overnight trip. Lorenzana said the boats will not be escorted by the Navy or Coast Guard in accordance with a request from China’s ambassador to Manila, who, he said, assured him in negotiations over the weekend that the boats would not be blocked again.

A naval plane will nonetheless fly over the remote shoal that has been surrounded by Chinese surveillance ships in a years-long territorial standoff when the Philippine boats reach it, the defense chief said. The Philippines says the shoal is in its internationally recognized exclusive economic zone, but China insists it has sovereignty over the waters.

“The Chinese ambassador assured me that they will not be prevented, but they asked that there should be no escort,” Lorenzana told reporters. Asked if he expects the vessels will not be blocked, he replied, “We’ll see.”

The government conveyed its “outrage, condemnation and protest against the incident” to China after two Chinese Coast Guard ships blocked the two Philippine boats on Tuesday, and a third Coast Guard ship sprayed high-pressure water currents on the boats, which were forced to interrupt their mission to transport food to the Marines. , who guard the shoal, officials said.

Philippine Secretary of State Teodoro Locsin Jr. ordered Beijing’s ships to back down and warned China that Manila’s supply boats were covered by a mutual defense agreement with the United States. Washington later said it stood by the Philippines “in the face of this escalation, which directly threatens regional peace and stability,” and reiterated “that an armed attack on Philippine public vessels in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense obligations” during the 1951 US- Mutual Defense Treaty of the Philippines.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded to the Philippine protests by saying that China’s coastguard had maintained Chinese sovereignty after Philippine ships entered Chinese waters at night without permission.

It was the latest flare-up in protracted territorial disputes in the strategic waterway, where China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping demands. China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has transformed seven shoals into missile-protected island bases to cement its claims and increase tensions.

Philippine National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said the number of Chinese surveillance ships has risen alarmingly in recent weeks at the shoal and also around Thitu, a major Philippine-occupied island in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea’s most disputed area.

China has recently renewed its call on the Philippines to tow its naval ship BRP Sierra Madre, which Philippine Marines have used as an outpost, and offered Chinese help, a Philippine official said on condition of anonymity due to lack of authority to discuss sensitive issue in public.

But the Philippine government has said it will never withdraw from the shoal, citing a 2016 ruling from a UN-backed international arbitration panel that invalidated China’s historic claims to virtually the entire South China Sea. China has rejected and continues to defy the ruling.

The Philippine military deliberately collided with the Sierra Madre, a World War II-supplied warship supplied by the United States, at the submerged shoal in 1999 in a move to solidify its claim. The Sierra Madre is now actually a shipwreck, but the Philippine military has not shut it down. This makes the rusted ship an extension of the government and means that any attack on the ship is tantamount to an attack on the Philippines.

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