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Duterte calls out China’s water cannon attack vs. Philippine vessels en route to Ayungin Shoal

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday condemned the action of Chinese ships attacking Philippines vessels en route to Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea via water cannon six days ago, saying such action is abhorrent.

"We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view with grave concern other similar developments," Duterte said.

"This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership," he added during the ASEAN-China special summit.

Duterte also reminded China that claims in the South China Sea should be resolved using the might of the law and that stakeholders should exercise utmost self-restraint, avoid the escalation of tensions and work towards the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law.

"UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas) and the 2016 Arbitral Award provide legal clarity …pointing us to a just and fair solution to our disputes. We must fully utilize these legal tools to ensure that the South China Sea remains a sea of peace, stability and prosperity," Duterte pointed out.

Under UNCLOS, the area which is 200 nautical miles off the territorial sea of a certain country is deemed the said country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Likewise, Duterte told China to remain committed to the conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

"There is simply no other way out of this colossal problem but the rule of law," Duterte said.

Earlier in the day, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the resupply ships have been deployed and that Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian told him there won't be interference provided these ships won't 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."

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.

Last week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. 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.

The Chinese government has since justified their attacks by saying that the Philippine vessels "trespassed" and that Chinese forces were just doing their duty to protect Chinese territory.

'Strong opposition'

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 Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, in July 2016, junked China's nine-dash claim in the South China Sea.

In the same ruling, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that the Spratly Islands, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, and Recto (Reed) Bank are within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).  — RSJ, GMA News