Manila has filed a diplomatic protest over incidents in the South China Sea, asserting ‘sovereign rights’ over an area claimed by Beijing
The Philippines has lodged a diplomatic protest with China and summoned its ambassador over maneuvers by Chinese maritime police vessels that it says led to collisions with ships of the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard in the South China Sea, officials in Manila said on Monday.
The Philippine government’s National Task Force said the incidents occurred during a rotation mission for personnel stationed on the WW2-era Sierra Madre tank-landing ship on Sunday.
As a result of the “dangerous blocking manoeuvers of [a] China Coast Guard vessel,” it collided with a Philippine naval resupply boat, the task force said. In a related incident, a Chinese coast guard craft allegedly collided with a Philippine one in the Ayungin Shoal area.
“Ayungin Shoal is part of our exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, and we have sovereign rights and jurisdiction over it,” the Philippine foreign affairs spokeswoman Ma. Teresita Daza, said at a press conference.
She added that Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian was summoned to the foreign ministry over the incident, but as he is not currently in Manila, the note was transferred to his deputy, Zhou Zhiyong.
Beijing has blamed the clashes on Philippine vessels. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson claimed they “intruded the waters of Ren’ai Jiao (Chinese name for Ayungin Shoal)” and “bumped dangerously” with the Chinese Coast Guard and fishing vessels. He emphasized that Ren’ai Jiao is part of China’s Nansha Qiongdao Province and is Chinese territory.
“We once again urge the Philippines to take seriously China’s grave concerns, honor its promise, stop stirring up trouble and making provocations at sea”, a Foreign Ministry statement said.
According to AFP, Beijing has also “lodged a complaint” about the incident.
The Philippines and China have a long history of contesting ownership of atolls and islands in the South China Sea. China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea – and Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, and Taiwan have also challenged Beijing’s claims. While a tribunal in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines on the issue in 2016, rejecting China’s claims, Beijing has allegedly ignored the ruling.
In August, while escorting ships carrying supplies for Filipino military personnel stationed on the ship Sierra Madre on the Ayungin Shoal, a Chinese coast guard vessel used water cannons while maneuvering dangerously close to the Philippine ships, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said.
In 1999, Philippine authorities deliberately ran the World War II-era US amphibious assault ship Sierra Madre aground on disputed reefs in the South China Sea to monitor Chinese activities in the region. A small contingent of military personnel is constantly present on the ship. China has repeatedly demanded that the vessel be removed, and has threatened to tow it away.