The Philippines on Friday said it filed a diplomatic protest against China after the latter's Coast Guard fired a water cannon at a boat carrying supplies for Filipino troops aboard the BRP Sierra Madre in the Ayungin Shoal.
In a statement, the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) insisted that the Chinese vessels involved in these illegal activities should leave the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal immediately.
“The Philippine Embassy in Beijing has demarched the Chinese foreign ministry and protested these actions,” the NTF-WPS said.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs has also reached out to them and conveyed our protest directly through the Maritime Communications Mechanism,” it added.
According to the NTF-WPS, China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel 5203 used a water cannon against the Philippine supply ship M/L Kalayaan to drive it away during the resupply mission to Ayungin or Second Thomas Shoal.
Aside from this, CCG and Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels also recklessly harassed, blocked, and executed dangerous maneuvers against the Philippines ships.
“CCG vessel 5203 deployed a water cannon against Philippine supply vessel M/L Kalayaan in an illegal though unsuccessful attempt to force the latter to alter course,” it said.
“Supply boats Unaizah Mae 1 (UM1) and M/L Kalayaan were also subjected to extremely reckless and dangerous harassment at close proximity by CCG rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) inside Ayungin Shoal lagoon during their approach to BRP Sierra Madre,” it added.
Despite China’s actions, the NTF-WPS said both supply boats were able to successfully reach BRP Sierra Madre.
The Philippines condemned China’s latest “unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous maneuvers” against a legitimate and routine Philippine rotation and resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal.
According to the NTF-WPS, China’s actions “put the lives of our people at risk”.
“The systematic and consistent manner in which the People's Republic of China carries out these illegal and irresponsible actions puts into question and significant doubt the sincerity of its calls for peaceful dialogue,” the NTF-WPS said.
“The Philippines, for its part, has acted responsibly, consistent with a rules-based international law, on the basis of UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award. Peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regard for the legitimate, well-established, and legally settled rights of others,” it added.
Ayungin Shoal is in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
CCG spokesperson Gan Yu said two small cargo ships and three coast guard ships from the Philippines “trespassed” into the waters near Second Thomas Shoal “without the permission of Chinese government”.
The Philippines' act infringes upon China's territorial sovereignty, violates the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and breaks its own promise,” the Chinese official said.
“We urge the Philippine side to stop its infringement behavior immediately,” the Chinese official added.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. lauded the efforts of the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard which execute these missions.
The NTF-WPS said the Philippines would not be deterred from exercising its legal rights over its maritime zones including Ayungin Shoal despite China’s actions. — DVM, GMA Integrated News