Philippines on Thursday accused Chinese Coast Guard vessels of firing water cannons at their boats when supplying Philippine military personnel in the disputed South China Sea, and demanded that Beijing desist from those actions.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin expressed “outrage, condemnation and protest” to Beijing over the incident, which, he said, It happened on Tuesday when Philippine ships were traveling to the Ayungin Sandbank (Second Thomas Shoal) in the disputed Spratly Islands.
“Fortunately no one was injured, but our boats had to abort the supply mission“Locsin said on Twitter, describing the action of the three Chinese ships as” illegal. “
Locsin pointed out that Philippine ships are civilian and protected by a mutual defense agreement with the United States. “China has no patrol rights in and around these areas,” he added. “They must pay attention and back off.”
Tensions around this maritime zone increased this year after hundreds of Chinese vessels were detected on the Whitsun Reef, which is also part of the Spratly archipelago.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars of annual trade pass, and it is also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
China ignored the 2016 ruling of an international court that declared its historical claim to most of the sea baseless. After China occupied the Mischief Reef in 1994, The Philippines left a ruined navy ship on the Ayungin Sandbank to defend its territorial claim. The Philippines has members of its navy based on the site.
Locsin said the sandbar is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone, and warned that if China “does not hold back, it will threaten the special relationship” between the two countries. “We do not ask permission to do what we need to do in our territory,” he said.
The Chinese embassy in Manila did not initially respond to a request for comment. The outgoing president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has sought to distance himself from the United States, the country’s former colonial power, in order to get closer to China since he came to power in 2016, and has avoided confronting his neighbor.
But when faced with internal pressure to take a firmer stance, Duterte has insisted that Philippine sovereignty over its waters is non-negotiable.
Last july, Duterte backed down with the decision to rule out a military pact with the United States, the Visiting Forces Agreement, during a visit by Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin.
(With information from AFP)
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