Philippines Rejects China’s Demand To Remove Ship From Shoal
The Philippines’ defense chief rejected on Thursday Beijing’s renewed demand that it remove its outpost on a disputed South China Sea shoal and said Chinese coast guard ships should leave the area and stop blocking Manila’s supply boats.
Philippine forces use a grounded warship, the BRP Sierra Madre, as an outpost on the submerged but strategic shoal that is at the center of an ongoing dispute with China.
Defense Secretary Mr. Delfin Lorenzana said the Second Thomas Shoal lies within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China has ratified. He said a 2016 ruling by a U.N.-backed arbitration tribunal also invalidated China’s claims to the busy waterway, leaving them without any legal basis.
Communist China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked the Philippines Wednesday to honor its commitment and remove its grounded vessel on Ren’ai Jiao, the name Beijing uses for the shoal, which Filipinos refer to as Ayungin. Chinese coast guard ships have allowed Manila’s boats to bring food and other supplies to Filipino forces at the shoal for humanitarian reasons, it said.
But defense chief Mr. Lorenzana told reporters he was not aware of any Philippine government commitment to remove its navy ship, which has been grounded upon the shoal since 1999.
We can do whatever we want there and it is they who are actually trespassing, he said.
Beijing coast guard ships have surrounded the shoal in a years-long territorial standoff and tried to block Philippine supply boats in past years. In the latest confrontation, The ships used water cannons to forcibly turn back two supply boats manned by Philippine navy personnel last week, sparking outrage and warnings from Manila.
Following the blockade, the United States said it was standing by the Philippines and reiterated that an armed attack on Philippine public vessels in the South China Sea would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under the two allies’ 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.