Filtered By: Topstories

China won't interfere with resupply missions to Ayungin —Lorenzana

Military resupply missions for troops stationed in Ayungin Shoal will continue this week as China gave word that it would not interfere with such missions, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Sunday.

"The Chinese will not interfere per my conversation with the Chinese ambassador," said Lorenzana, referring to Huang Xilian.

In a separate interview on Monday, Lorenzana said Huang appealed that the Philippine vessels performing the resupply missions would not be escorted.

The resupply ships left this morning- [from] Oyster Bay in Palawan and will reach Sierra Madre tomorrow morning. The Chinese Ambassador assured me they will not be impeded, pero pakiusap nila walang escort [but they appealed against escorts]," Lorenzana said.

Asked if the unescorted Philippine vessels will not be harassed, the Defense chief said, "We will see."

Lorenzana also said a Navy plane "will be at the vicinity when the resupply ships are in Ayungin."

According to Lorenzana, he and Huang have been in constant communication since November 16, following the incident in Ayungin Shoal where two Philippine supply boats were blocked and fired with water cannons by Chinese coast guard vessels.

No one was hurt in the incident, but the boats had to abort their resupply mission.

Ayungin Shoal, or Second Thomas Shoal, is located about 174 nautical miles from Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, and is one of the nine areas occupied by Filipino troops in the West Philippine Sea.

"We will see if they are true to their words as our Navy will proceed with the resupply this week," Lorenzana said, referring to China.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. last week said he has conveyed "in the strongest terms" to Huang and China's foreign affairs ministry the Philippines'  "outrage, condemnation and protest" of the Ayungin incident.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian justified the actions of the Chinese vessels, saying the Filipino boats "trespassed" into a Chinese territory and that "Chinese coast guard vessels performed official duties in accordance with law and upheld China's territorial sovereignty and maritime order."

But according to Lorenzana, it was the Chinese ships that violated the Philippines' sovereign rights as Ayungin is within the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

"Therefore they have no right to impede, prevent or harass our ships within our EEZ, whether we are fishing or bringing supplies to our detachment in the Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal," he said.

The European Union on Sunday expressed "strong opposition" to China's blocking of and using water cannons on the two Philippine vessels on a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

"The European Union reiterates its strong opposition to any unilateral actions that endanger peace, security and stability in the region and the international rules-based order," EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Nabila Massrali said.

The EU also said the Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled in 2016 that the shoal lies within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and Australia over the weekend slammed China for the incident and expressed support for the Philippines. —KBK/KG, GMA News