BEIJING — The Philippines has repeatedly taken unilateral actions to undermine the existing management status quo on the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, China's ambassador to the Philippines said on Tuesday.
China is waiting for feedback from the Philippine side, and hopes to start talks as soon as possible, Chinese ambassador Huang Xilian said.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday summoned Huang following the latest incident in Ayungin Shoal — the Philippine name for Second Thomas Shoal — where the China Coast Guard (CCG) used water cannon and performed alleged dangerous maneuvers against Philippine vessels.
The Chinese ambassador met with senior Philippine diplomats, who conveyed Manila's deep concern over the incident and stressed the violations committed by the CCG under international law.
Philippine President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. earlier said a note verbale was sent to Huang in connection with the water cannon incident.
The Philippine vessels were escorting 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 BRP Sierra Madre has been grounded at Ayungin shoal since 1999. The ship manned by more than a dozen Marines and sailors has become a symbol of Philippine sovereignty in the offshore territory.
Ayungin is located 105.77 nautical miles from the nearest Philippine province of Palawan and constitutes part of the country’s 200-nautical mile continental shelf as provided under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The CCG, for its part, said it had taken "necessary controls" against Philippines boats that had "illegally" entered its waters.
China on Monday accused the Philippines of seeking to “permanently occupy” the Ayungin Shoal and again raised its demand for the removal of BRP Sierra Madre in what it called Ren’ai Jiao.
“The historical context of the issue of Ren’ai Jiao is very clear. In 1999, the Philippines sent a military vessel and deliberately ran it aground at Ren’ai Jiao, attempting to change the status quo of Ren’ai Jiao illegally,” the statement read.
“China immediately made serious démarches to the Philippines, demanding the removal of the vessel. The Philippines promised several times to tow it away but has yet to act. Not only that, the Philippines sought to overhaul and reinforce the military vessel in order to permanently occupy Ren’ai Jiao,” it added.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Tuesday however said the BRP Sierra Madre which is stationed at Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
In 2013, the Philippines challenged China’s legal basis for its vast claim in the South China Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands. Manila won the case in a landmark award in 2016 after the tribunal invalidated Beijing’s assertions.
China has ignored and belittled the ruling, maintaining “indisputable” and “historical” claim over nearly the entire waters even as it encroaches on the territories of its smaller neighbors like the Philippines.
For years, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and China have been locked in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, a vital sea lane where oil and natural gas have been discovered. —Reuters with GMA Integrated News