The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said Sunday the China Coast Guard (CCG) illegally used water cannons against its vessels going to Ayungin Shoal on Saturday for a resupply mission at the BRP Sierra Madre.
In a statement, PCG condemned CCG’s “dangerous maneuvers and illegal use of water cannons” against their vessels escorting the indigenous boats chartered by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to deliver food, water, fuel, and other supplies to military troops stationed on BRP Sierra Madre.
“The PCG calls on the China Coast Guard to restrain its forces, respect the sovereign rights of the Philippines in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, refrain from hampering freedom of navigation, and take appropriate actions against the individuals involved in this unlawful incident,” PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said.
The PCG stressed that CCG’s move not only disregarded the safety of the PCG crew and the supply boats, but also violated international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the 1972 Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS), and the 2016 Arbitral Award.
Ayungin Shoal is part of the Kalayaan Island Group, which is an integral part of the Philippines, as well as the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, over which the Philippines has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.
“We ask that China Coast Guard, as an organization with a responsibility to observe state obligations under UNCLOS, COLREGs, and other relevant instruments of international maritime safety and security, to cease all illegal activities within the maritime zones of the Philippines,” Tarriela added.
GMA News Online has reached out to the Chinese Embassy to get a statement but it has yet to receive a reply.
However, the CCG issued a statement on Sunday in which it said it had taken "necessary controls" against Philippines boats that had "illegally" entered its waters.
"Two repair ships and two coast guard ships from the Philippines illegally broke into the waters... in China's Nansha Islands," China Coast Guard spokesperson Gan Yu said in an Agence France-Presse report, adding that Beijing had "implemented necessary controls in accordance with the law and stopped Philippine ships carrying illegal building materials."
Meanwhile, Senator Migz Zubiri provided a video of the incident, which he said was provided by the Philippine Armed Forces.
The AFP also condemned and expressed concern about the incident, which it called “excessive and offensive.”
It said the second supply boat en route to Ayungin Shoal was not able to unload the supplies and could not complete the resupply mission due to the CCG’s “dangerous maneuvers.”
“We call on the China Coast Guard and the Central Military Commission to act with prudence and be responsible in their actions to prevent miscalculations and accidents that will endanger peoples' lives,” AFP said.
GMA News Online sought the comment of Malacañang, but it has yet to respond as of posting.
The United States backed the Philippines over the latest attack of the CCG against the vessels of the PCG en route to Ayungin Shoal for a resupply mission, saying that it directly threatens the peace and stability in the region.
The US Department of State said that the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) firing of water cannons and employing unsafe blocking maneuvers against PCG vessels on Saturday “interfered with the Philippines’ lawful exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and jeopardized the safety of the Philippine vessels and crew.”
Citing the 2016 arbitration ruling, the United States stressed that China “has no lawful claim to the maritime area around Second Thomas Shoal, which is located well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.”
“The United States reiterates, pursuant to the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, the arbitral decision is final and legally binding on the PRC and the Philippines. The United States calls upon the PRC to abide by the arbitral ruling as well as to respect the freedom of navigation – a right to which all states are entitled,” it added.
The US also reaffirmed that an armed attack on Philippine public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces would invoke mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty of the Philippines and US.
In June, two CCG vessels also made "dangerous maneuvers" that could have caused a collision with two PCG ships near Ayungin Shoal.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, on the other hand, said in July that the maneuvers of their vessels in Ayungin Shoal were “professional and restrained.”
The PCG in February also accused a CCG vessel of pointing a "military-grade" laser light at one of its vessels supporting a military rotation and resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal.
China defended the move by saying that the Philippines vessel was intruding into Chinese territory.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidated Beijing's massive claims in the South China Sea in July 2016.
"The Tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’," the Permanent Court of Arbitration said.
China however said it would ignore the ruling. —with a report from Michaela del Callar/KG, GMA Integrated News