Philippines resupplies outpost but complains of continuing Chinese ‘harassment’

Both countries have competing claims in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.
By RFA Staff
2021.11.23
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Philippines resupplies outpost but complains of continuing Chinese ‘harassment’ The BRP Sierra Madre, a marooned transport ship which Philippine marines live on as a military outpost, is shown in the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, in a file photo.
Reuters

The Philippines was able Tuesday to conduct the resupply of a South China Sea outpost that had been blocked last week but the nation’s defense secretary accused China of continuing harassment.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday expressed outrage over last week’s altercation when China’s coastguard fired water cannon, preventing Philippine vessels from reaching marines stationed at Second Thomas Shoal, which Manila calls Ayungin.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement that two civilian resupply boats carrying navy personnel were able reach the marines “without any untoward incident” on Tuesday morning. They are stationed at a World War II-era warship that is grounded at a shoal in the disputed Spratly island chain.

However, Lorenzana said a Chinese coast guard ship nearby “sent a rubber boat with three persons” to where the Philippine boats were unloading and took photos and video.

“I have communicated to the Chinese ambassador that we consider these acts as a form of intimidation and harassment,” he said.

The Philippines and China have competing claims in the South China Sea that Beijing claims virtually in its entirety. The Nov. 16 altercation at sea prompted an unusually strong intervention from Duterte, who has sought closer ties with Beijing, while addressing a special China-ASEAN summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping present.

“We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view with grave concern other similar developments,” Duterte said on Monday, adding: “This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership.”

Strong condemnation

The U.S. and the European Union both condemned China’s actions. U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said that an armed attack on Philippine boats in the South China Sea would invoke Washington’s defense commitment under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines.

The E.U. meanwhile urged “all parties to resolve disputes through peaceful means.”

In his speech at the ASEAN-China summit, Duterte stressed that the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that threw out Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, had already provided “legal clarity” on the issue.

In response to a question about Duterte’s unusually strong statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson on Monday once again insisted that “China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea are supported by a solid historical and jurisprudential basis.”

“The so-called South China Sea arbitration and ruling are illegal, null and void,” said Zhao Lijian.

According to Zhao, the area around the Second Thomas Shoal is “in general tranquil” and “China and the Philippines are maintaining close communication.”

The submerged atoll in the Spratlys is claimed by China, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Since 1999, the Philippines has maintained a marine detachment aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, which was grounded deliberately to serve as an outpost.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam are all claiming parts of the South China Sea but China cites historical rights to almost 90 percent of the sea despite rejection by international law.

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