Tensions between China and the Philippines over the Ayungin shoal issue in the West Philippine Sea remain unresolved.
After delivering food and supplies to Philippine troops guarding the Ayungin shoal, China called on the military to fulfill its alleged promise to remove the BRP Sierra Madre.
The Philippine Navy left the ship there in the 1990s to reinforce the Philippines’ position as part of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“China demands that the Philippine side honor its commitment and remove its grounded vessel on Ren’ai Jiao. This position remains unchanged. This food and other supplies delivery is a provisional, special arrangement out of humanitarian considerations,” said Zhao Lijian, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson.
The Philippines has denied that the country has such a promise, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana insisted.
“Ayungin shoal lies within our EEZ where we have sovereign rights. Our EEZ was awarded to us by the 1982 UNCLOS, which China ratified. Therefore, China should abide by its international obligations that it is part of,” said Lorenzana.
UNCLOS is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an international treaty signed in 1982 between countries.
Philippines has no plans to leave Ayungin shoal
Lorenzana also stressed that China does not care about what the country is doing because of the arbitral award in 2016.
“Furthermore, the 2016 arbitral award ruled that the territorial claim of China has no historic nor legal basis. Ergo, we can do whatever we want there, and it is they who are actually trespassing.”
The Philippines had earlier relented when the Chinese coast guard blocked and pumped water last week on Philippine supply ships to Ayungin shoal.
Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal advised the Philippine force to be vigilant. China could take advantage of the pre-election opportunity to expand maritime control by attempting to build an artificial island in the Scarborough shoal in 2016.
In his speech on Monday at the ASEAN-China Summit attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Rodrigo Duterte strongly condemned the interception and bombing of China’s water cannon on military supply boats that were supposed to carry only food other equipment to the troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre.