The issue of disputed territories around the Philippine Sea is far from over. Three Chinese Coast Guard vessels obstructed and allegedly water-cannoned two Philippine supply boats bound to Ayungin Shoal.
Ayungin Shoal, Part of Kalayaan Island Group
Also called Second Thomas Shoal, Ayungin Shoal is an atoll in the Spratly Islands that lie in the South China Sea. The shoal’s location is 105 nautical miles west of Palawan and occupied by the Philippines military. At the same time, it’s a Philippine Territory.
The said shoal is a part of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and a structural part of the Philippines. Also, it’s the country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. It means that the Philippines has jurisdiction, sovereign rights, and sovereignty over it.
Chinese Coast Guard’s Outrageous Misconduct
The Department of Foreign Affairs condemns such behavior about what the Chinese Coast Guard did. These foreign vessels used water canons on two Philippine boats that would deliver food supplies to the militaries in Ayungin Shoal. Although no one was hurt, they needed to suspend their mission.
Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. already discussed the matter with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian and Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi. He criticized and disapproved of the incident saying that China possesses no law enforcement rights within and the surrounding areas.
“I reminded China that a public vessel is covered by the Philippines-United States Mutual Defense Treaty. The acts of the Chinese Coast Guard vessels are illegal. China has no law enforcement rights in and around these areas. They must take heed and back off,” said Locsin in a statement.
China shouldn’t neglect to practice self-restraint because it will jeopardize the friendship between the leaders of the two Asian countries. Locsin added that they don’t need to ask permission for what they need to do in their territory. So far, the Philippines has already filed 211 diplomatic notes against China since Duterte became the president.
Both the United States and the Philippines restated the UN-backed arbitration court 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. It abolished China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea.
China’s Persistent Claim Within the 9-Dash
During the previous months, hundreds of Chinese ships dotted the surrounding West Philippine Sea. The Philippine government called their presence an infiltration. Analysts, including several countries, already cautioned China of its aggression in the West Philippine Sea because it could threaten regional law and order.
China keeps a regular presence of fishing boats and coast guards in the international passage. It’s because they want to pronounce their claim in the Spratly Islands regardless of the Arbitral Tribunal in 2016. It concluded that China has no legal grounds to claim historic rights to resources to surrounding sea areas that fall within their “9-dash line.”
However, China denied acknowledging the Award and called it erroneous and invalid. Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, and Vietnam are other Asian countries that also affirm they have claims.
Duterte refrained from pressing China to abide by the court’s ruling. It’s because the Philippines pursues investments and loans from the global economic influencer. He used to call the arbitral Award a scrap of paper but later on said that Philippine ships won’t withdraw from the channel.
Prior to the circumstance, authorities discovered a strange presence of Chinese maritime militia. It is close to the atoll and Philippine-occupied Thitu island. China repudiated operating a militia. Last week, 19 vessels were near the Ayungin Shoal, and 45 were near Thitu Island.
Image Source: Tyg728/WikimediaCommons